Safeguarding Adults and the Inherent Jurisdiction: Social Work Perspectives and Legal Literacy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Introduction: Safeguarding adults has a legislative footing in England via the Care Act, 2014 but powers to intervene remain limited outside of the remit of the Mental Capacity Act, 2005. Local authorities can seek to invoke the Inherent Jurisdiction of the High Court to make an order when it is necessary and proportionate, but safeguarding adult reviews suggest this is often misunderstood.

Aims and Objectives: The presentatoin summarises relevant case law and research, before sharing findings from 'community of practice' groups that took place at four local authority sites.

Methods: Knowledge exchange workshops were facilitated in four local authority settings in order to build knowledge-based partnerships across research and practice. 'Community of practice' groups were then facilitated at each site in order to discover how social work practitioners navigate this complex socio-legal terrain.

Findings / outcomes: Social work practitioners shared concerns about the balance of rights and risks, particularly in cases that involved oppressive relationship dynamics, but where the person maintained mental capacity to make relevant decisions. Practitioners were regularly uncertain about their legal options in these complex situations and the absence of a clear legislative framework compounded this.

Discussion / Conclusions: Legal literacy stretches beyond knowing legal rules to using these rules wisely in dynamic situations to achieve ethical outcomes. The findings from the study provide insights into the understanding that social work practitioners have relating to the Inherent Jurisdiction where they must balance high levels of risk and crucial aspects of human rights.

Implications for Practice: Social work education lays the foundations for using law in practice but ongoing opportunities for learning and development, critical reflection and commitment to rights-based thinking is required in social work organisations in order to achieve ethical and legally literate practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2023
EventJoint Social Work Education Conference 2023: Social Work Education, Research and Practice in turbulent times - University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Jun 202316 Jun 2023
Conference number: 5


ConferenceJoint Social Work Education Conference 2023
Abbreviated titleJSWEC 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Safeguarding Adults
  • Legal Literacy
  • Inherent Jurisduction
  • Human Rights

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