Safeguarding adults: The impact emotional and unconscious factors have on decision making

Kay, Janna (2024) Safeguarding adults: The impact emotional and unconscious factors have on decision making. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of East London. Full text available

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This research project examines unconscious and emotional factors that influence decision making in adult safeguarding work. The author builds upon research into child protection that highlights the complexities of ‘rational decision making’. Adult safeguarding is relatively new compared to child protection, and academic research into the day-to-day practice of adult safeguarding professionals is limited. Intense levels of anxiety experienced by practitioners and organisations makes it an extremely challenging area of practice. The author uses psychoanalytic theory as a way of understanding and making sense of adult safeguarding as a social work task. Over more than 12 months, data was collected through observation and free association narrative interviews in a local authority safeguarding team. The results show that numerous unconscious and emotional factors influence the decision-making process and practice decisions. This directly affects those tasked with protecting vulnerable people. Some are obvious, however many are hidden and the extent of their influence often passes unnoticed. This study provides fresh insight into how practitioners make decisions. It demonstrates powerful ways in which unconscious and emotional dynamics affect practitioners’ responses. Understanding this more fully can inform the support that practitioners require from their organisation in order to make better decisions. It concludes that specialist adult safeguarding teams ought to be reconsidered as operational arrangements. This is particularly due to the level of expertise and understanding required being grossly underestimated and the emotional and psychologically demanding aspects of the work.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment of a Professional Doctorate in Social Work and Emotional Wellbeing awarded by the University of East London, in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Social Work and Emotional Wellbeing, D60, Adult Safeguarding, Decision Making, Unconscious, Emotions, Psychic Defences, Transference, Projective Identification, Dynamics of Abuse, Containment, Organisational Environment
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Occupational Groups
Social Welfare > Social Welfare Personnel
Social Welfare > Social Work
Subconscious & Unconscious, Personality > Unconscious
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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