Assessment tools utilised in adult safeguarding practice in the UK and Ireland: Results from a small-scale qualitative study

Laura Doyle, Lorna Montgomery, Sarah Donnelly, Katherine MacKay, Bridget Penhale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Across the UK and Ireland, there are a range of processes and interventions offered to adults who, because of personal characteristics or life circumstances, require help to keep themselves safe from potential harm or abuse. The ways in which the statutory and voluntary sectors have chosen to safeguard these adults varies. Different models of intervention and the utilisation of a range of assessment tools, frameworks and approaches have evolved, often in response to policy and practice wisdom. Empirical research in this area is limited. The primary research purpose of the project on which this paper is based is to gather information on the range of tools and frameworks that are used in adult safeguarding practice across the UK and Ireland. In so doing, this paper seeks to contribute and inform the future development of an evidence based adult safeguarding assessment framework.

Design/methodology/approach: A team of academics from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland wanted to explore the possibility of adapting a pre-existing assessment framework currently in use in family and childcare social work to consider its utility in assessing carers involved in adult safeguarding referrals. This paper reports on a small pilot study which sought to inform the adaptation of this framework for use in adult safeguarding. This paper is based on a qualitative study involving 11 semi-structured telephone interviews with adult safeguarding social work managers and experienced practitioners. Two to four professionals from each region of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland were interviewed to elicit their perceptions and experiences of engaging in adult safeguarding assessment processes and their views about models of assessment.

Findings: This study identified considerable variation in and between the nations under review, in terms of the assessment frameworks and tools used in adult safeguarding practice. To a large extent, the assessment frameworks and tools in use were not evidence based or accredited. Participants acknowledged the value of using assessment frameworks and tools whilst also identifying barriers in undertaking effective assessments.

Originality/value: There is limited evidence available in the literature regarding the utility of assessment frameworks and tools in adult safeguarding practice. This primary research identifies four themes derived from professional’s experiences of using such frameworks and identifies broader recommendations for policy and practice in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-81
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Adult Protection
Issue number2
Early online date13 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2023


  • Adult safeguarding
  • Approaches
  • Assessment
  • Carers
  • Frameworks
  • Models
  • Safeguarding
  • Tools

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