The role of the Appropriate Adult in Supporting Vulnerable Adults in Custody; Comparing the Perspectives of Service Users and Service Providers

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paperpeer-review


Background: The 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and its Codes of Practice created a duty on police custody sergeants to secure an Appropriate Adult (AA) to safeguard the rights and welfare of vulnerable people detained or questioned by the police. This includes any young person aged 10-17 years and adults who are mentally vulnerable. There is a statutory duty on Youth Offending Teams to provide AAs for children and young people, but no similar duty on any agency to provide AAs for vulnerable adults in police custody. However many local authority adult social services in England do commission or directly provide an AA service for vulnerable adults with mental health needs and/or learning disabilities in police custody. Aim: This study focused on the role of the Appropriate Adult in supporting vulnerable adults and sought to examine what a range of stakeholders would expect from an effective Appropriate Adult service in England. Method: This was a qualitative study of four Appropriate Adult services in England which were wholly or part-funded by adult social care. Qualitative interviews were undertaken with 25 respondents: managers or coordinators of AA services (6), managers or commissioners from adult social care and/or health services (6), Appropriate Adults (9) and police (4). In addition two focus groups were held with service- user groups, in which a total of 13 participants took part. Findings: Commissioners from adult social care identified the following reasons for directly funding AA provision for vulnerable adults; recognition that although non-statutory the provision was part of their wider safeguarding responsibilities; to alleviate demands on social care professionals; to respond to demands for the service from partners including the police; and to develop volunteering opportunities. The findings indicate considerable variation amongst case study areas around how safeguarding concerns raised during contact with service users are dealt with. There is also disparity between the expectations of service managers and commissioners, and service users, on what comprises an effective service. Professionals tend to prioritise the availability and response time of Appropriate Adults, while service users prioritise particular personal attributes and the demeanour of Appropriate Adults. There was little evidence of service user engagement or involvement in any of the four services in the study. The study calls for greater engagement of commissioners and other professionals in Appropriate Adult services to determine whether the legal and welfare rights of vulnerable adults in custody are being protected.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2017
EventSocio-Legal Studies Association Conference - University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Mar 201829 Mar 2018


ConferenceSocio-Legal Studies Association Conference
Abbreviated titleSLSA
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of the Appropriate Adult in Supporting Vulnerable Adults in Custody; Comparing the Perspectives of Service Users and Service Providers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this