Margaret Greenfields, Roger Dalrymple and Agnes Fanning (eds)
McGraw Hill/Open University Press
This is an interesting book that considers the common characteristics between different states of vulnerability, which may occur within a range of contexts, particularly health, social and community care, writes Bridget Penhale. One of the major aims of the book is to support students who are undertaking education and training in these areas but it is of relevance to any practitioners who may encounter these potentially complex areas of work during their practice with adults.
Different chapters in the volume thus focus on various categories/types of adults who may be vulnerable and at risk of harm. Of particular interest is the fact that the work includes consideration of hard to reach and seldom heard groups such as traveller communities, migrant workers and homeless people as well as adults with difficulties due to substance misuse. Within the book practice-related and case examples are used to good effect; these are particularly valuable as examples of how professionals can effectively work with individuals in order to reduce the effects of vulnerability and to lessen the chances of heightened risk of further periods of vulnerability. Vulnerability is perceived as a social construction and as such may lead to the individual experiencing risk(s) of harm. Explanations of core themes and implications for a range of professionals and service providers are usefully incorporated and there is a very clear practice focus to the text.
The book is divided into two distinct sections. Part 1 contains theoretical perspectives from a number of different areas and usefully includes discussion of the vulnerabilities and risks that may be associated with such areas as parenthood, substance misuse and homelessness, as well as learning disability, sensory impairment and mental health perspectives. Following a useful linking chapter that explores theoretical points of view, the second part of the book mainly focuses on case studies and examples derived from both research and practice. These clearly illustrate how different states of vulnerability are at times contingent on each other. The linking of theory with practice examples will be valuable to both students and practitioners.
This book is published at a time when changes and advances in recent policy and practice development, particularly in the field of adult safeguarding, are currently fairly rapid. This has evidently presented the editors with some challenges in terms of ensuring that the material presented is accurate and up-to-date and it was somewhat disappointing to find, for example, that information on the Vetting and Barring Scheme had not been amended to reflect the most recent set of changes. Definitions of vulnerability that are used by authors also vary between chapters. In addition, although the title clearly refers to ‘risk of harm’ a number of the chapters do not fully consider aspects of violence, abuse and harm relating to individuals in these groups and much of the extant literature on specific types of violence and abuse of adults was surprisingly missing from the text as a whole.
The approach of having different sections and chapters by several authors means that a number of very different and interesting perspectives are presented. Elements of the book are informative, with useful case study material, helpful practice-related tips and suggestions for further reading provided at the end of each chapter, though the book is somewhat inconsistent and uneven in content and style. Overall, however, this is an interesting supplementary text, which would be of some interest to individuals wishing to learn more about this evolving area of work.
Bridget Penhale is reader in mental health at University of East Anglia, Norwich