Assessing risks to vulnerable adults and referrer motivation: An analysis of how social workers screen adult safeguarding referrals.

Jeremy Dixon

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Safeguarding adults forms a core part of adult social work and involves workers making efforts to protect vulnerable adults from abuse. In England and Wales, the status of safeguarding practice has been raised by the introduction of The Care Act 2014. This law gives local authorities duties to lead assessment teams and to prevent abuse or neglect where it occurs. Drawing on ethnographic research data in one local authority in England, this paper considers safeguarding practice as a form of governmentality. The paper focusses on how workers decided which referrals met the threshold for further assessment and which were screened out.
Safeguarding referrals were received from a wide range of sources including care homes, the emergency services and members of the public. In line with legal criteria social workers considered the degree to which the person had prior support needs, whether they were experiencing abuse or neglect and whether they were able to protect themselves. However, workers also sought to assess the motivation of referrers. Safeguarding referrals were seen as a means by which individuals or organisations might seek to attribute or avoid blame or as a means of placing individuals at the front of the queue for social services. Considerations about referrer motivation were used alongside case information to consider whether reported risks were genuine.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2017
Event13th Conference of the European Sociological Association: (Un)Making Europe Capitalism, Solidarities, Subjectivities - Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences and Harokopio University of Athens, Athens, Athens, Greece
Duration: 29 Aug 20171 Sept 2017


Conference13th Conference of the European Sociological Association
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing risks to vulnerable adults and referrer motivation: An analysis of how social workers screen adult safeguarding referrals.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this