Vulnerable adult abuse
: exploring the tensions between a welfare approach and criminal justice outcomes.

  • Jacqueline Farquharson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study focuses on a specific area where little research has been carried out in relation to safeguarding and the abuse of vulnerable adults. By exploring decision making by victims, social workers and police officers this study seeks to establish why perpetrators of vulnerable adult abuse are not being processed through the criminal justice system. It establishes detail by examining the recording and sharing of information, evidence gathering and the identification of coercive behavior, drawing parallels with domestic abuse.

A pragmatic approach underpins the study as it focuses on research using a mixed methods approach commencing with police data analysis. This is followed by the qualitative research methods of participant observation with social care practitioners and semi-structured interviews with safer neighbourhood police officers.

Key findings identified abuse by people known to the vulnerable adult, often by someone they depend on, increases the risk of harm. Much safeguarding work that occurs with vulnerable adults parallels the dynamics of domestic abuse and is a key factor why there are few criminal justice outcomes. A different definition of vulnerability used by each agency reflects competing/opposing agendas and creates a tension between welfare versus a criminal justice outcome.
Date of AwardMar 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJacki Tapley (Supervisor) & Jane Creaton (Supervisor)

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