Choosing to Live with Harm? A Presentation of two Case Studies to Explore the Perspective of those who Experienced Adult Safeguarding Interventions

Kathryn Mackay
  • Ethics and Social Welfare, January 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/17496535.2017.1280069

Using two case studies to explore the complexity of choice in adult safeguarding practice.

What is it about?

This article explores the tension and dilemmas in adult safeguarding work between promoting an adult’s autonomy and trying to protect them from harm. It draws upon the literature around choice, ethics of care, and adult support and protection practice to highlight that a person's ability to make a choice to address harm in their lives is complex thing to assess. It then uses two examples, drawn from a Scottish research study, to highlight the emotional and relational, as well as cognitive, factors that may explain why some people stay in abusive situations. Finally it recommends how welfare professionals might be better supported to address these complexities in their practice.

Why is it important?

Adult safeguarding is relatively new policy and practice area compared to child protection. There is, as yet, only a small amount of published research that explores the experience of the adult at risk. This article makes a contribution to this small but hopefully growing area of practice. It has important messages for welfare professionals to help them avoid making assumptions about an adult's ability to make an informed choice when they are living in harmful situations. It also suggest ways in which researcher can take these ideas into future projects . More generally it has relevance for the policy makers as it highlights the problematic nature of choice as a policy value.


Ms Kathryn J Mackay
University of Stirling

This article was a long time in the writing but I think it truly found its home in the Int. Journal of Ethics and Social Welfare because the ethical and relational dimensions of adult safeguarding practice are often underplayed in the policies and commentaries in the UK and internationally.

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The following have contributed to this page: Ms Kathryn J Mackay