Vulnerable adults

An evaluation of the outcomes of Southwark’s vulnerable
adults policy.

Southwark social services and the Metropolitan Police were among
the first to establish a joint policy on working with vulnerable
adults. The client group was broadly defined and included people
subjected to financial abuse and neglect.

This study looked at the views of social workers and police
officers about the operation of the policy and its outcomes for 44
individuals referred. They were interviewed at the outset and again
six months later. Referrals were predominantly people with learning
difficulties and frail older people, but also disabled people.

The local police policy stipulated that a planning meeting or
case conference with social services should be called once
allegations were made, but this happened in only half of the

In half the cases, the police decided that the victim did not
have the capacity to give evidence for a prosecution, and in the
remaining cases, most victims were reluctant to give evidence.
Social workers felt that use of video evidence might increase the
likelihood of prosecutions being successful.

Social workers felt that less than 20 per cent of the vulnerable
adults gave rise to continuing concern about their safety. Of those
seen as still being at risk, most had a learning difficulty and
most were living at home. After six months, 37 per cent were no
longer receiving a service, either because they had been dealt with
as duty cases or because the file had been closed. Learning
difficulty team members were more likely to call conferences than
staff of older people services teams.

The research is encouraging, as alleged abuse of vulnerable
adults is taken seriously and inter-agency management is working
reasonably well.However, it highlights the great difficulty
vulnerable victims have in gaining access to the criminal justice

Source: Alan Rushton, Kay Beaumont and Debbie Mayes,
Service and client outcomes of cases reported under a joint
vulnerable adults policy, Journal of Adult Protection
, vol
2:2, 2000.

Brian Williams is reader in criminal justice at De
Montfort University, Leicester.



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