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From reactionary to activist: a model that works

Celia Harbottle (Freelance Lecturer, based at, Morpeth, UK)
Maria R. Jones (Company Director, based at Orchard Care (NE) Ltd, Durham, UK)
Lee M. Thompson (Strategic Manager – Safeguarding and Professional Practice, based at South Tyneside Borough Council, South Shields, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 8 April 2014




The purpose of this paper is to invite readers to consider a model of compassionate leadership to contribute to the prevention of abuse in collective care settings.


This paper examines a model of leadership based on theories of attachment and parenting and draws on evidence from practice. The framework, which we call Total Attachment, originated in a foster care organisation which was designed around the approach as a way of supporting carers to care for children who were, largely deemed as unfosterable. It explores literature examining workplace culture and the potential for detachment as workers try to survive their employment. It then offers an approach which has been adopted by a Safeguarding Adults partnership to implement a prevention framework into collective care settings for older people. This has placed Total Attachment at the heart of its promotion of compassionate care giving.


Consultation from the launch of the prevention framework indicated that Total Attachment had a resonance with providers and was readily understood and its value, tangible as a whole systems approach to enabling compassionate caring. The efficacy of the model in supporting workers to be resilient and effective is quantified by data from the foster organisation.

Research limitations/implications

Total Attachment draws on transference of practice learning and experience across life span services. Attachment theory is largely considered a framework informing child care, however, this model recognises the attachment story across the life span.

Practical implications

This model shows how compassionate care can be led rather than simply taught; how carers and workers can be shown a way of working that connects deeply with their own need for care giving and care seeking.


This paper shares creative, innovative practice that can be implemented in services across the life span. It offers a model for leading compassionate care in a whole systems approach with an evidence base of its efficacy.



Harbottle, C., R. Jones, M. and M. Thompson, L. (2014), "From reactionary to activist: a model that works", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 113-119.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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