Adult safeguarding inequalities in Northern Ireland: an exploratory study

Lorna Montgomery*, Laura Doyle, Lisa Bunting, Nicole Gleghorne

*Corresponding author for this work

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Whilst studies of child welfare inequalities have identified the impact of socio-economic deprivation on child protection rates, little is known about how this relates to intervention with adults who have care and support needs. This article examines the impact of area-level deprivation on adult safeguarding (AS) rates in Northern Ireland (NI). Routinely gathered statistics for community AS referrals (2015–2017) were linked to area-level deprivation across NI using service users’ postcode. The relationship between deprivation and the screening, investigation and safeguarding planning stages of intervention was examined. Our analysis identified a clear social gradient in relation to AS referrals; the higher the level of deprivation, the higher the rates of AS screening and protection plans. Findings for investigations showed more variability. Further research is needed to explore the factors associated with areas of high deprivation that shape AS social work responses. To our knowledge, this is the first time AS rates have been explored in relation to deprivation. The study findings, that structural factors play a significant role in AS interventions, will help to determine how and where social work interventions are best focused, helping to shape policy and AS theory.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbcae064
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Early online date22 May 2024
Publication statusEarly online date - 22 May 2024


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