failings to protect those in need of some support/assistance/protection from adult safeguarding.
Braye et al. (2017) also identified that practitioners often failed to employ “concerned curiosity”
when determining service user autonomy in self-neglect practice. A lack of curiosity has also been
recognised for some time in SCRs when a child dies or is seriously harmed (Brandon et al., 2012).
The reviews held following the high-profile deaths of Victoria Climbie, Peter Connelly and Daniel
Pelka have all called for greater scrutiny and professional curiosity amongst professionals from
statutory agencies. Yet there remains limited discussion of the skills needed to engage in
professional curiosity practice in core social work textbooks and practice literature. Further, most
lessons to be learned detailed in reports from SCRs and SARs highlight a lack of coordinated
systems of support for those needing protection, as well as poor inter-professional and
interagency collaboration by the agencies required to protect those in need of protection from
abuse and neglect. In their analysis of SARs (n¼27), Braye and Preston-Shoot (2017) identified
that a lack of shared approaches to practice was a factor in 23 of the 27 SARs analysed, and
issues with interagency communication and information sharing were factors in 23 of the 27
SARs. Stevens (2013) noted that: “in practice, differing professionals may not fully understand
each other’s roles and responsibilities and both thresholds and scope of adult abuse are still not
universally agreed”. Earlier, Perkins et al. (2007, p. 9) commented that “resource pressures,
insufficient information sharing and a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities”hindered
multi-agency work in this area. Whilst understanding the importance of working in partnership
has deepened in recent years, evidence drawn from SARs frequently cites the need for greater
partnership and more coordinated working in order to safeguard adults with care and support
needs (Preston-Shoot, 2017).
This practice paper draws from a review of SARs and SCRs, which were accessed through the
SAR library, reviews of SARs and Google searches, and a thematic analysis of the SARs reviewed
that were relevant to the themes of this paper. The paper contributes to the body of knowledge in
this area of practice by focusing on the relevance of professional curiosity and partnership work in
safeguarding adults. It does so by drawing from the broad literature and observations from
practice, including lessons to be learnt from a number of published SCRs and SARs. The
discussion is contextualised in safeguarding adult practice, policies and law in England. However,
the practice issues discussed have more universal application. Practitioners outside of England
may wish to draw from the practice discussions and apply relevant content, taking into account
the context of their own local and national policies and law.
What is professional curiosity?
There is no clear definitionof professional curiosity,most writers identify a numberof characteristics
associated with the term. Burton and Revell (2018, p. 1512) note that the notion of professional
curiosity “appears to be assumed and lacking in clarity”. Writing in relation to young people,
Williams and Chisholm (2018, p. 203) suggest being professionally curious entails: “asking
questions that give and solicit information without being intrusive or making the [service user] feel
threatened. These should be open-ended and allow for additional probing”. Practice literature
suggests that professional curiosity relates to the capacity and communication skills needed to
explore and understand what is happeningwith an individual or family. It is aboutenquiring deeper
and using proactivequestioning and respectful challenge, understanding one’s own responsibility
and knowing when to act,rather than making assumptions or takingthings at face value (Brighton
and Hove Safeguarding Children’s Board, 2017; Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board, 2018).
Policy and legal context
Engagement in practice that includes professional curiosity and partnership work is embedded in
safeguarding adult policies and the Care Act 2014, the main statutory framework which guides
safeguarding adult practice. It is expected within the British Association of Social Work
Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF, 6) (BASW, 2018, p. 26) that those entering social
work education and the profession will: “apply imagination, creatively and curiosity to practice”.
Drawing from Peterson and Seligman’s (2004) work, Sekerka et al. (2014, p 710) defined
curiosity as: “a capacity to want to explore possibilities […] choosing to seek out additional
VOL. 21 NO. 5 2019
THE JOURNAL OF ADULT PROTECTION