Parliamentary arguments on powers of access – the Care Bill debates

Jill Manthorpe (Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, London, UK)
Stephen Martineau (Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, London, UK)
Caroline Norrie (Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, London, UK)
Martin Stevens (Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, London, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Publication date: 12 December 2016



Opinion is divided on whether a new power of entry should be introduced for social workers in cases where individuals seem to be hindering safeguarding enquiries for community-dwelling adults at risk in England who have decision-making capacity. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the prevalence and circumstances of situations where access to an adult at risk is denied or difficult and what helps those in practice. The study consists of a literature review, a survey of adult safeguarding managers and interviews with social care staff in three case studies of local authorities. As part of the contextual literature review, during 2014 the authors located parliamentary debates on the subject and this paper reports on their analysis.


Following approaches were used in historical research, documentary analysis was carried out on transcripts of parliamentary debates available online from Hansard, supplemented by other materials that were referenced in speeches and set in the theoretical context of the representations of social problems.


The authors describe the content of debates on the risks and benefits of a new right to access for social workers and the role of parliamentary champions who determinedly pursued this policy, putting forward three unsuccessful amendments in efforts to insert such a new power into the Care Act 2014.

Research limitations/implications

There are limits to a focus on parliamentary reports and the limits of Hansard reporting are small but need to be acknowledged. However, adult safeguarding research has surprisingly not undertaken substantial analyses of political rhetoric despite the public theatre of the debate and the importance of legislative initiatives and monitoring.


This paper adds to the history of adult safeguarding in England. It also offers insight into politicians’ views on what is known/unknown about the prevalence and circumstances of the problems with gaining access to adults with capacity where there are safeguarding concerns and politicians’ views on the merits or hazards of a power of access.



This study is funded by the Department of Health’s Policy Research Programme. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors’ alone. The authors are grateful to the reviewers for their constructive comments.


Manthorpe, J., Martineau, S., Norrie, C. and Stevens, M. (2016), "Parliamentary arguments on powers of access – the Care Bill debates", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 18 No. 6, pp. 318-328.

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