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Title: Exploring the role of social work in supporting or limiting the rights of citizens subject to adult protection legislation
Author(s): Mackay, Kathryn J
Supervisor(s): Rummery, Kirstein
Munro, Bill
Keywords: adult protection
adult safeguarding
social work
ethic of care
ethic of justice
mental health law
mental capacity law
mental distress
Issue Date: Jul-2019
Publisher: University of Stirling
Citation: Mackay K (2012) A parting of the ways? The diverging nature of mental health social work in the light of the new Acts in Scotland, and in England and Wales. Journal of Social Work, 12 (2), pp. 179-193.
Mackay K (2011) Compounding Conditional Citizenship: To What Extent Does Scottish and English Mental Health Law Increase or Diminish Citizenship?. British Journal of Social Work, 41 (5), pp. 931-948.
Mackay K (2010) Vulnerability, autonomy, capacity and consent. In: Davis R & Gordon J (eds.) Social Work and Law in Scotland. 2nd ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 136-151.
Mackay K, Notman M, McNicholl J, Fraser D, McLaughlan C & Rossi S (2012) What difference does the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) 2007 make to social work service practitioners' safeguarding practice?. Journal of Adult Protection, 14 (4), pp. 197-205.
Mackay K (2017) Choosing to Live with Harm? A Presentation of two Case Studies to Explore the Perspective of those who Experienced Adult Safeguarding Interventions. Ethics and Social Welfare, 11 (1), pp. 33-46. Available from:
Abstract: Adult protection legislation incorporates mental health, mental capacity and adult safeguarding statutes. These give social workers investigation and intervention powers into the lives of adults with physical impairment, learning disabilities, mental distress or ill-health in old age. My five publications and linked narrative explored the recent expansion of adult protection legislation and what this might say about the nature of citizenship. In particular, where the boundary might lie between the private lives of citizens and governments’ responsibilities towards them. The role of social workers is to mediate this space between government and citizen. However, this role has to be situated within the wider welfare context of managerialism and rationing of services. These wider constraints also affect those who might become subject to adult protection legislation, increasing their vulnerability to harm. Yet they are also vulnerable to practitioners misusing their powers. I adopted a feminist reflexive approach and used citizenship as an overarching theoretical framework to interrogate how legislation might be reshaping the social work role; and the possible implications for the adults who might be at risk of harm. A comparative analysis of the Scottish and Westminster Governments’ mental health law reforms was undertaken. Additionally the findings of a Scottish adult safeguarding qualitative study were used to explore the perspective of social workers and people who experienced interventions. These found that law on its own does not ensure greater civil and social rights. The prescribed nature of the social work role and the wider context may either compound or ameliorate the already limited citizenship of some people who become subject to adult protection legislation. The findings also suggest that adult protection social work, at its best, might be viewed as citizenship practice: one that requires a relational approach, informed by an ethic of care and an ethic of justice.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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