Explore UCD

UCD Home >

‘Speaking Up about Adult Harm’ Options for Policy and Practice in the Irish Context

‘Speaking Up about Adult Harm’ Options for Policy and Practice in the Irish Context (2018)

This project is part of Sarah's research on safeguarding.

This research report was commissioned by Senator Colette Kelleher to review existing international literature with regard to different systems of reporting in adult safeguarding. These were then compared to provisions within the Adult Safeguarding Bill, 2017.


The continuing evolution of adult safeguarding legislation, policy and practice in relation to the abuse of vulnerable adults reflects a growing awareness of the nature and extent of such abuse in Ireland. The Adult Safeguarding Bill, 2017 represents a progressive step in safeguarding older people and vulnerable adults. The intention of the Bill is to put in place additional protections for adults, in particular, for those who may be unable to protect themselves, such as older people or those lacking capacity. Part 3 provides for mandatory reporting by specified/named persons/professionals. This paper sets out to critically analyse the concept of mandatory reporting within adult safeguarding using international comparators as case studies.


A rapid realist review of adult safeguarding reporting typologies and systems in five key jurisdictions: Australia, Canada, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, were explored to answer the question: ‘what works, for whom and in what circumstances?’


Jurisdictions differ as to who the mandated reporters are, the scope and powers of mandatory reporting, and the types of abuse subject to reporting. Of significance is that the debate on mandatory reporting has increasingly focused on institutional settings, rather than more broadly across services. Key concepts identified are those of protection, empowerment and proportionality. Adult safeguarding legislation must therefore ensure that interventionist and compulsory measures to protect do not excessively restrict the rights of the individual.


Mandatory reporting may offer professionals increased powers to prevent and reduce the abuse of adults and older people, but this could also change the dynamic of relationships within families, and between families and professionals. Ultimately, the success of any legal approach will rest with professional judgment in balancing autonomy with protection.


Research Report:  Download 

Donnelly, S. (2019). Mandatory reporting and adult safeguarding: a rapid realist review. Journal of Adult Protection, 21(5), 241-251. doi:10.1108/JAP-03-2019-0011

Donnelly, S. (2019). 72 Adult Safeguarding, Abuse of Vulnerable Adults and Mandatory Reporting: A Rapid Realist Review of the Literature. Age and Ageing48(Supplement_3), iii17-iii65. doi:10.1093/ageing/afz103.39

Contact the UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8198 | E: sp-sw-sj@ucd.ie | Location Map