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Paternalism or proportionality? Experiences and outcomes of the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007

Michael Preston-Shoot (Executive Dean, Faculty of Health & Social Sciences, based at Faculty of Health & Social Sciences, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK)
Sally Cornish (Senior Lecturer, based at Applied Social Studies, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK.)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 4 February 2014




The purpose of this paper is to report the findings from research into the outcomes of adult protection in Scotland, with particular focus on how service users, family members and service delivery professionals perceive the effectiveness of the protection orders in the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007.


The study comprised analysis of Adult Protection Committee biennial reports on implementation of the 2007 Act to the Scottish Government, key informant interviews and workshops with professionals involved in adult protection leadership and practice, and case study interviews with service users, family members and practitioners.


Concerns about the potential for paternalistic practice and excessive use of the protection orders within the 2007 Act have not materialised. The principle of proportionality appears to be firmly embedded in adult protection practice. Service delivery professionals, service users and family members remain acutely aware of the tensions between autonomy and protection but point to beneficial outcomes for adults at risk from the careful use of protection orders, especially banning orders.

Research limitations/implications

Only ten case studies were able to be included in the study. However, the use of mixed methods enabled triangulation of the findings. Common themes emerge from across the data sources. The findings also resonate with conclusions drawn by other researchers.

Practical implications

The paper identifies outcomes and challenges in respect of protecting adults at risk in Scotland. Strengths and limitations of the 2007 Act are identified.


The paper offers a formal evaluation of the outcome of protection orders for adults at risk in Scotland. The findings are of wider policy relevance given the debates on how to legislate for adult safeguarding in England and Wales.



The research was funded by the Scottish Government and commissioned from EKOSGEN and the University of Bedfordshire. Staff at EKOSGEN (Economic Development and Regeneration Consultants) based in Glasgow were centrally involved in the preparation of the tender, and subsequently in data collection, data analysis and report writing alongside the authors of this paper. The views expressed in this paper are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent or imply Scottish Government policy.


Preston-Shoot, M. and Cornish, S. (2014), "Paternalism or proportionality? Experiences and outcomes of the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 5-16.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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