Personalising Risk: Social Workers' Perspectives On The 'Making Safeguarding Personal' Approach To Adult Protection.

Jeremy Dixon

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Safeguarding adults forms a core part of adult social work and involves workers making efforts to assess risk and protect adults from abuse. In England and Wales, social workers have been encouraged to adopt a ‘Making Safeguarding Personal’ approach. This involves prioritising the needs and wishes of the person at risk when considering how such risks should be managed.
Drawing on ethnographic research data in three local authorities in England, this paper considers safeguarding practice using governmentality theory. The findings draw on observations of and interviews with social workers involved in initial safeguarding assessments focussing on how they conducted those assessments.
Social workers were positive about the idea of involving people in their own assessments of risk. However, several dilemmas were raised. First, initial assessments were conducted by telephone. This made it hard for workers to assess whether individuals had the mental capacity to make informed decisions or whether the person assessed was subject to coercion. Second, social workers identified that some individuals were unwilling to engage in risk discussions, making personalised practice challenging. Third, several social workers were reluctant to be explicit about safeguarding procedures when meeting with individuals, due to concerns about the person becoming alarmed or upset.
Several benefits were identified by social workers in adopting the ‘Making Safeguarding Personal’. The approach was presented as ‘empowering’ to the person being assessed, through discouraging paternalism. It was also seen to reduce unreasonable demands for risk reduction amongst other agencies such as the police or ambulance service. In addition, adopting the approach enabled social workers to engage with individuals over a prolonged period, in the context of managerial pressure to close cases quickly.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2019
EventESA European Sociological Association Conference 2019 - Manchester, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Aug 201923 Aug 2019


ConferenceESA European Sociological Association Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleESA 2019
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom


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