Outcomes following adult safeguarding
alerts: a critical analysis of key factors
Rachel Fyson and Deborah Kitson
Purpose – This paper seeks to report some of the ﬁndings from an evaluation of adult safeguarding in
one English local authority. The evaluation was commissioned in the context of concern regarding the
number of safeguarding investigations that resulted in inconclusive outcomes.
Design/methodology/approach – All adult social care teams in the local authority were asked to
complete a short pro forma about the ﬁve most recent adult safeguarding alerts that they had managed
to completion. Data collected included: characteristics of the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator;
details of the professionals involved; whether or not a safeguarding plan meeting/case conference was
held; and the outcome of any investigation. Respondents were also asked to comment on factors that
they perceived to have helped or hindered the investigation.
Findings – Findings suggest that a signiﬁcant number of variables inﬂuence the likelihood of cases
resulting in a conclusive outcome. These variables included not only the characteristics of alleged
victims, but also elements of safeguarding practice – including inter-agency co-operation, social
workers’ pre-existing knowledge of the alleged victim, and the convening of safeguarding plan
meetings. A failure to actively involve alleged victims in the safeguarding process was also noted.
Research limitations/implications – This is a relatively small sample from a single local authority.
Originality/value – This is the ﬁrst study to provide qualitative evidence about the factors which
inﬂuence the success or otherwise of adult safeguarding practice. The ﬁndings are likely to be of value to
professionals working in adult safeguarding who are seeking to understand ‘‘what works’’ in managing
investigations following safeguarding alerts.
Keywords Adult protection, Safeguarding, Safeguarding alerts, Inconclusive outcomes,
Service user involvement, Local authorities, Patient care
Paper type Research paper
In the decade since the publication of the ﬁrst national guidelines (Department of Health, 2000)
relating to adult protection, much progress has been made towards identifying both the nature
and scope of the abuses which vulnerable adults experience. A national prevalence survey
(O’Keeffe et al., 2007) demonstrated the extent of abuse amongst older people, whilst an
analysis of local authority referrals revealed both an increase in referrals over time and
differences in the types of referrals received in respect of different vulnerable adult groups
(Mansell et al., 2009). Other studies have examined safeguarding from the
various perspectives of the different professionals involved, including adult protection
co-ordinators (Manthorpe et al., 2008), social workers (Pinkney et al., 2008), and health
professionals (Phair and Heath, 2010; Draper et al., 2009).
Research into the practice and – more importantly – the outcomes following adult safeguarding
alerts is, however, surprisingly scarce. A study by Cambridge and Parkes (2004) stands out for
focussing on how professionals make decisions about adult safeguarding; concluding that,
in order to avoid paternalism, advocacy could be used as an effective framework for service
DOI 10.1108/14668201211217549 VOL. 14 NO. 2 2012, pp. 93-103, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1466-8203
THE JOURNAL OF ADULT PROTECTION
Rachel Fyson is an
Associate Professor in the
School of Sociology and
University of Nottingham,
Deborah Kitson is Chief
Executive of Ann Craft
Trust, Nottingham, UK.