Self-neglect and adult safeguarding: findings from research

Document type
Braye, Suzy; Orr, David; Preston-Shoot, Michael
Social Care Institute for Excellence
Date of publication
1 September 2011
Adults' services SCIE report; 46
Social Work, Social Care and Social Services, Disabled people, Mental health services, Older Adults
Social welfare
Material type

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The relationship between self-neglect and safeguarding in the UK is contested, in part because the current definition of abuse specifies harmful actions by someone other than the individual at risk. Safeguarding Adults Boards’ policies and procedures commonly contain no reference to self-neglect; occasionally they explicitly exclude it or set criteria for its inclusion, for example, drawing a distinction between unwillingness to maintain health and safety and inability to do so. Safeguarding structures and communication channels are sometimes used to facilitate information sharing about situations of self-neglect, and to resolve questions of whether intervention can be made. In the US, conversely, self-neglect falls within the remit of adult protection services and is subject to mandatory reporting.

The research reported here was commissioned by the Department of Health (DH). Conducted between December 2009 and May 2010, it comprised a scoping study of the concept of self-neglect as defined in the literature and interpreted in adult safeguarding practice. The report draws on a systematic review of the literature, workshops with senior managers and practitioners in specialist safeguarding roles, a focus group with adult social care practitioners and interviews with key informants

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