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Social workers and safeguarding adult reviews (SARs)– an exploration of the stories that are told and the narratives that they hold

Mary O'Reardon (School of Education and Communities, University of East London, London, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 21 December 2022

Issue publication date: 7 February 2023




The purpose of the study is to explore the contribution of safeguarding adult reviews (SARs) to the contemporary stories of what social work practice is and what social workers should do. Evidence of this contribution is sought by analysis of SARs as publicly available documents capturing contemporary social work alongside considering social worker’s views of these reports.


This paper presents two components of the wider research study as follows: documentary analysis exploring discussions of social work practice held within a sample of SARs xD;xA; and analysis of focus groups and semi-structured interviews established to explore the knowledge, experience and views of front-line social workers in relation to SARs.


It is suggested that social workers locate the value of SARs within the arena of learning and development often celebrating the SAR processes in bringing agencies together more so than the actual report. This paper argues that SARs hold considerable power in their ability to present a narrative about contemporary social work in England, and that social workers themselves can be wary of this power.

Research limitations/implications

The research is limited by the scope of the data which includes a sample of SARs from one geographical area and data collected from social workers who volunteered to participate.

Practical implications

This paper draws on the evidence gathered and presents some recommendations to support the potential for SARs to positively enhance social work identity and practice.

Social implications

This paper explores the stories about social work that are found within a sample of SARs and seeks to explore how these stories fit with the stories that social workers themselves share about SARs.


There has been considerable research interest in SARs; however, to date there has not been a research exploration of the impact of SARs on professional social work and front-line social workers in practice. This paper presents early findings and analysis from research in progress as part of a Doctorate of Social Work Study at University of East London who provided ethical approval and supervisory support.



The author wish to acknowledge the support and funding contribution of her employers at NHS NEL ICB – an organisation that is committed to SAR processes and learning. She is personally very grateful for the support, guidance and Social Work anchoring of her academic supervisors Professor Jo Finch and Dr Robin Mutter along with here DSW colleague Sally Nieman.


O'Reardon, M. (2023), "Social workers and safeguarding adult reviews (SARs)– an exploration of the stories that are told and the narratives that they hold", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 20-32.



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