Working with Adults at Risk from Harm

Bridget Penhale (Reader in Mental Health, University of East Anglia, Norwich)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 14 June 2013



Penhale, B. (2013), "Working with Adults at Risk from Harm", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 167-168.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is an interesting book that considers the common characteristics between different states of vulnerability, which may occur within a range of contexts (particularly across health, social and community care settings). One of the major aims of the book is to support health care and social work students who are undertaking education and training in these areas but it is of relevance to any practitioners who may encounter these potentially complex areas of work during their practice within adult care.

Different chapters in the volume thus focus on a variety of types of adults who may be vulnerable and/or at risk of harm. Of particular interest is the fact that the book includes consideration of hard to reach and seldom heard groups such as traveller communities, migrant workers and homeless people as well as adults with difficulties due to substance misuse. The range of vulnerabilities is thus extended beyond the areas that are usually considered in adult care. Practice‐related material and case examples are well used; these are particularly valuable as examples of how professionals can effectively and usefully work with individuals in order to reduce the effects of vulnerability and to reduce the chances of any increased risk of further periods of vulnerability. From the outset, vulnerability is identified as a social construction and as such is seen as potentially leading to the individual experiencing risk(s) of harm. Explanations of core themes and exploration of the potential implications for a range of professionals and service providers are helpfully incorporated throughout the book and there is a very clear practice focus to the text.

The book is divided into two distinct sections. Part 1 contains theoretical perspectives from a number of different areas and usefully includes discussion of the vulnerabilities and risks that may be associated with such areas as parenthood, substance misuse and homelessness, as well as more traditional considerations of such areas as learning disability, sensory impairment and mental health perspectives. Following a useful linking chapter that explores theoretical points of view, the second part of the book mainly focuses on case studies and examples derived from both research and practice. The chapters in this second section of the book clearly illustrate how different states of vulnerability are contingent on each other at some points in time. The linking of theory with practice examples will be valuable to both students and practitioners.

This book appears at a time when changes and advances in recent policy and practice development, particularly in the field of adult safeguarding, have been moving at quite a rapid rate. This has evidently presented the editors with some challenges in terms of ensuring that the material presented is accurate and up‐to‐date. For instance, it was rather disappointing to find that information on the Vetting and Barring Scheme (as it was at time of publication) had not been amended to reflect the most recent set of changes, which occurred prior to publication of the book, or pointers to the development of the Disclosure and Barring Service. The definitions of vulnerability that are used by authors also differ between chapters. Moreover, although the title clearly refers to “risk of harm” several of the chapters do not seem to fully consider aspects of violence, abuse and harm relating to individuals from these groups. For this reader, at least, it was rather surprising to find that much of the existing literature on specific types of violence and abuse of adults was missing from the text as a whole.

The material contained in the book is presented as a series of self‐contained chapters, written by different authors, within the separate parts of the volume. Taking this approach of having different sections and chapters by a variety authors, means that a number of essentially quite different and interesting perspectives are usefully presented to the reader. Aspects of the book are informative, with some valuable case study material provided. Furthermore, useful practice‐related tips and suggestions for further reading are helpfully provided at the end of each chapter.

Nevertheless, within this edited text there are some variations in both style and content from the different contributors, although the book remains generally easy‐to read and many of the contributions are thought provoking. However, in attempting to cover the broad range and extent of vulnerabilities it seems that some specific risks of harm have not received quite the amount of attention that perhaps ought to have been the case in a book of this type. To summarise, in spite of these slight shortcomings, in general this is an interesting book, which complements existing texts and would be likely to interest a range of individuals, including students and practitioners wishing to learn more about this developing area of work.

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