New Journal Article: A different kind of practice?

A different kind of practice? Meanings attached by practitioners to the idea of ‘adult protection’



Summary: This article began with an observation made during re-analysis of the dataset from a study of Scottish adult support and protection practice. Namely, different practitioners could mean different things when they said they had been doing ‘adult protection’ work. For this article, therefore, practitioners’ conceptualisations of adult protection work were hypothesised inductively from the dataset, and refined into categories through a process of constant comparison, open and axial coding. The dataset comprised material from case files and practitioner interviews relating to 23 ‘adults at risk’.

Findings: When practitioners said they had been doing ‘adult protection’ work, they could mean that: (a) they perceived themselves to have been responding to abuse, harm or high risk; and/or (b) they were adopting a certain formal, even coercive tone of work; and/or (c) they had formally flagged the work as adult protection, including through the use of procedures. Practitioners drew on and combined these meanings in different ways. They also varied in the extent to which they saw adult protection as a distinctive type of practice and/or as different from what had gone before.

Applications: Support and protection work involves nuanced judgements about the nature and intentions of policy, about how these relate to particular situations and about how best to translate them into practice. Time and support is required for this complex work. Further research is needed to deepen understandings of the practice context, particularly with respect to risk. Policy-makers should engage with such research as they continue to develop adult protection/safeguarding policies.

Sherwood-Johnson, F. (in press) A different kind of practice? Meanings attached by practitioners to the idea of ‘adult protection’ Journal of Social Work, available at:


Fiona Sherwood-Johnson,