Financial harm in a context of adult protection
: the complexity of factors influencing decision making

  • Melanie Durowse

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Following the introduction of the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007, in 2012, the Scottish Government identified financial harm as an emerging theme for development, with an identified action to ‘close the gaps in current arrangements for protecting adults at risk of financial harm’ (Scottish Government 2014a p.4). The subsequent project primarily engaged with community safety partnerships and the financial sector, but engagement with practitioners who work with adult protection and financial harm was limited. The purpose of this study was to explore the working relationships, views and experiences of multi-agency practitioners and identify which factors they considered in relation to financial harm.

    Using an amended q sort methodology, 88 multi-agency participants at a Scottish Adult Protection Conference in November 2014 scored 47 statements. The responses were analysed to identify the statements that did not have a strong agree or disagree score which suggested the possibility of additional factors in determining financial harm. From the analysis a series of 5 unfolding vignettes were developed and used in small focus groups and single interviews to explore the complexity of factors used in determining financial harm.

    The data was systematically analysed and identified 3 overarching themes: a) the process of not engaging with the adult during the identification of financial harm resulted in a lack of inclusiveness and created an ethical tension for practitioners; b) the culture, skills and knowledge of professional groups varied which impacted on joint decision making; and c) the wide variety of ways that adults could be harmed which impacted on knowledge and recognition. The data also identified the decision making processes varied between thorough analysis, rationality, bounded rationality and heuristics, with evidence of cue recognition, factor weighting and causal thinking.

    The findings indicated there are gaps in knowledge and understanding of financial harm across the multi-agency professionals, and organisational cultures have a strong influence on risk. The use of a solution focussed approach provided a short term protection but ignored the long term risks.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTim Kelly (Supervisor) & Jane Fenton (Supervisor)


    • Financial harm
    • Adult protection
    • Decision making
    • factors

    Cite this