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Mandatory reporting and adult safeguarding: a rapid realist review

Sarah Donnelly (School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 23 August 2019

Issue publication date: 15 October 2019




The purpose of this paper is to critically analyse the concept of mandatory reporting in adult safeguarding in the jurisdictions of Australia, Canada, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.


A rapid realist evaluation of the literature on this topic was carried out in order to answer the question: "what works, for whom and in what circumstances?” Particular attention was paid to Context(s), Mechanism(s) and Outcome(s) configurations of adult safeguarding reporting systems and processes.


The evaluation found a range of arguments for and against mandatory reporting and international variations on the scope and powers of mandatory reporting.

Research limitations/implications

This review was undertaken in late 2018 so subsequent policy and practice developments will be missing from the evaluation. The evaluation focussed on five jurisdictions therefore, the findings are not necessarily translatable to other contexts.

Practical implications

Some jurisdictions have introduced mandatory reporting and others are considering doing so. The potential advantages and challenges of introducing mandatory reporting are highlighted.

Social implications

The introduction of mandatory reporting may offer professionals increased powers to prevent and reduce the abuse of adults, but this could also change the dynamic of relationships within families, and between families and professionals.


This paper provides an accessible discussion of mandatory reporting across Ireland and internationally which to date has been lacking from the literature.



The author would like to sincerely thank Senator Colette Kelleher, Dr Marita O’Brien, Professor Jim Campbell and the Health Service Executive National Safeguarding Office with the preparation of the paper.


Donnelly, S. (2019), "Mandatory reporting and adult safeguarding: a rapid realist review", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 21 No. 5, pp. 241-251.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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