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Discriminatory abuse: time to revive a forgotten form of abuse?

Karl Mason (Department of Social Work, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK)
Anusree Biswas Sasidharan (Care and Health Improvement Programme, Local Government Association, London, UK)
Adi Cooper (Institute of Applied Social Research, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK and the Care and Health Improvement Programme, Local Government Association, London, UK)
Katy Shorten (Research in Practice, Totnes, UK)
Jeanette Sutton (Research in Practice, Totnes, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 2 March 2022

Issue publication date: 26 April 2022




Discriminatory abuse has been a distinct category of abuse in safeguarding adults policy since 2000, but it is rarely used in practice, according to recent official statistics. As part of a larger project, the authors undertook a literature review to clarify the concept, explore reasons for low reporting and consider recommendations for practice. The purpose of this paper is to present the findings of this literature review.


This literature review comprises 35 sources, which were identified using three academic databases, reference harvesting and sector-specific websites. Findings were developed through thematic analysis of the data.


The literature review demonstrates that definitions of discriminatory abuse stretch from an interpersonal emphasis in policy documents to a more structural approach. There are open questions about the status of discriminatory abuse as a category of abuse due to the complicated interface between discriminatory motivations and the abusive acts through which they are experienced. A range of factors can obscure its identification, particularly the hidden, stigmatised and normalised nature of discriminatory abuse. Some recommendations for practice are identified, but more work is needed to develop the practice vocabulary and required skills.


This study brings together existing research on discriminatory abuse to argue that it is time to revive this understanding of abuse and develop safeguarding practice with adults who have protected characteristics.



The authors would like to thank the members of the Care and Health Improvement Programme's advisory board on Discriminatory Abuse for their helpful comments while planning the article.


Mason, K., Biswas Sasidharan, A., Cooper, A., Shorten, K. and Sutton, J. (2022), "Discriminatory abuse: time to revive a forgotten form of abuse?", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 115-125.



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