Inter-agency adult support and protection practice: a realistic evaluation with police, health and social care professionals

Joseph Sundari, Susan Klein, Samantha McCluskey, Penny Woolnough, Lesley Diack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Purpose: Collaborative inter-agency working is of paramount importance for the public protection agenda worldwide. The purpose of this paper is to disseminate the findings from a research study on the inter-agency working within adult support and protection (ASP) roles in the police, health and social care.

Design/methodology/approach: This realistic evaluation study with two inter-related phases was funded by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research. This paper reports on Phase 1 which identified existing gaps in the implementation of effective inter-agency practice by reviewing the “state of play” in inter-agency collaboration between the police and health and social care professionals. In total, 13 focus groups comprising representatives from Police Scotland (n¼52), Social Care (n¼31) and Health (n¼18), engaged in single profession and mixed profession groups addressing issues including referral and information exchange.

Findings: On analysing context-mechanism-outcome (CMO), gaps in joint working were identified and attributed to the professionals’ own understanding of inter-agency working and the expectations of partner agencies. It recommended the need for further research and inter-agency training on public protection. Research limitations/implications – This unique Scottish study successfully identified the inter-agency practices of health, social services and police. By means of a modified realistic evaluation approach, it provides an in-depth understanding of the challenges that professionals face on a day-to-day basis when safeguarding adults and informed strategic recommendations to overcome the barriers to good practices in organisational working. The methods used to determine CMO could benefit other researchers to develop studies exploring the complexities of multi-causal effects of cross-boundary working. The use of the same case study in each focus group helped to neutralise bias. However, the voluntary nature of participation could have resulted in biased perceptions. The limited numbers of health professionals may have resulted in less representation of health sector views.

Practical implications: Collaborative inter-agency working is of paramount importance for public protection worldwide. This paper reports on a Scottish study that focussed on the coordinated and integrated practices amongst the police, health and social services’ professionals who support and protect adult members of society at risk of harm.

Social implications: Whilst the focus of this study has been on ASP, the conclusions and recommendations are transferable to public protection issues in many other contexts.

Originality/value: Studies on the joint-working practices amongst police and health and social services’ professionals who support and protect adult members of society at risk of harm are uncommon. This  study investigated professionals’ perceptions of gaps and concerns pertaining to integrated working by means of a realistic evaluation approach. It recommended the need for further research and inter-agency training on public protection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-63
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Integrated Care
Issue number1
Early online date3 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2019


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