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An exploration of decision-making processes in adult protection in Scotland

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Ref: SHLS20026

The recent Care Inspectorate thematic inspection of Adult Support and Protection (ASP) in Scotland highlights a number of key issues. A key quote from the report ((Care Inspectorate, 2018, p.16) is,
“Adult protection work is complex and challenging. It is all about marginality and balance…….Staff working in ASP skilfully walk a tightrope between risk mitigation and positive risk enablement”.
At the same time, adult protection is seen as being behind child protection in terms of the priority afforded to it, the maturity of the key underpinning processes and knowledge and skills of the frontline staff. The importance of this agenda is underscored by the recent Scottish Government Improvement Plan (Scottish Government, 2019)
Any scanning of academic literature also indicates that adult protection is behind child protection in terms of the research agenda, with fewer resources being devoted to it. Further, there are additional complications in terms of the more complex legal framework that is involved in adult social care, as well as the interface between ASP and other aspects of adult social care.
This proposal seeks to work from the opening quote about “tightrope walking”. An initial aim would be to:
• Explore decision making processes in respect of adult support and protection.
Objectives would include to:
• Deepen understanding of how social workers and other professionals make key decisions in respect of protecting adults
• Identify how people who are referred through ASP processes are involved in those processes
• Identify implications for practice.
It is anticipated that the methodology would be ‘practice-near’ in that it seeks to explore the sensemaking of social workers in particular and draw on work around naturalistic decision making (Gigerenzer, 2000, 2008; Hammond, 1996; Klein 2017). The successful candidate will have some knowledge of ASP processes. Whilst a social work background is desirable, it is not essential.


Care Inspectorate, 2018. Joint inspection of adult support and protection. Dundee: Care Inspectorate.
Gigerenzer, G., 2000. Adaptive decision making. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gigerenzer, G., 2000 Rationality for Mortals, New York: Oxford University Press.
Hammond, 1996. Human judgement and social policy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Klein, G., 2017. Sources of power: How people make decisions. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Scottish Government, 2019. Adult support and protection improvement plan 2019-2022:
Delivering improvements to support and protect adults at risk of harm in Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

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