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A review of factors which potentially influence decisions in adult safeguarding investigations

Patricia Trainor (Southern Health & Social Care Trust, Newry, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to look at safeguarding documentation in relation to 50 adult safeguarding files for the period April 2010 to March 2011. This was followed up with semi-structured interviews with a small number of Designated Officers whose role it is to screen referrals and coordinate investigations. Findings from the research were used to redesign regional adult safeguarding documentation to ensure Designated Officers have access to the information necessary to assist them in reaching decisions. Designated and Investigating Officer training was also updated to reflect learning from the research thereby reducing the potential for variation in practice.


A file tool was developed which examined the recorded information in safeguarding documentation contained within 50 service user files. The review tool looked at the personal characteristics of the vulnerable adult, the nature of the alleged abuse and the decisions/outcomes reached by staff acting as safeguarding Designated Officers. A semi-structured interview schedule asked Designated Offices to comment on the training and understanding of the process as well as the factors they believed were central to the decision making process. Their responses were compared to data obtained from the file review.


A key finding in the research was that while factors such as type of abuse, the vulnerable adults’ consent to cooperate with proceedings, identity of the referrer, etc. did influence decisions taken there was a lack of clarity on the part of Designated Officers in relation to their roles and responsibilities and of the process to be followed.

Research limitations/implications

The research was limited to one Health & Social Care Trust area and had a small sample size (n=50).

Practical implications

The findings of the research led to a revamping of existing safeguarding documentation which had failed to keep pace with developments and was no longer fit for purpose. Adult safeguarding training courses within the Trust were redesigned to bring greater focus to the role and responsibilities of designated and Investigating Officers and the stages in the safeguarding process. Adult Safeguarding leads were established within programmes of care and professional support mechanisms put in place for staff engaged in this area of work.

Social implications

Better trained and supported staff alongside more efficient safeguarding systems should lead to better outcomes in the protection of vulnerable people from abuse and harm.


The research built on existing albeit limited research into what potentially influences staff involved in critical decision-making processes within adult safeguarding.



The author would like to take this opportunity to thank those people instrumental in helping me to undertake this research particularly those Designated Officers who were enthusiastic, cooperative and open in sharing their experiences and their views. The author would also like to thank the Southern Health & Social Care Trust for facilitating me in this work and for granting permission for its publication.


Trainor, P. (2015), "A review of factors which potentially influence decisions in adult safeguarding investigations", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 51-61.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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