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Safeguarding Adults Week: Professional curiosity and the Advocacy role

Kathryn Holland 12 November 2021

Professional curiosity is of central importance to safeguarding and to advocacy. When things go wrong, a lack of professional curiosity is often there, in amongst the mix of things that could and should have been done better. 

We have rightly been placing emphasis on professional curiosity, because safeguarding cannot just be about reporting what we are told. Safeguarding is also about working in a way which means that staff are constantly alert to the possibility of abuse happening beneath the surface.

What is a professionally curious approach?

  • it is about actively trying to understand what life is like for the people we support
  • it is about looking for clues (a little like a detective)
  • it is about knowing how and when to ask the right questions
  • it is also about making judgements about the amount of time we need to spend with someone to keep them safe. The right questions are often triggered by the knowledge we already have of the person we support
  • importantly, it’s about knowing when we need to go beyond instruction and use a non-instructed approach. Someone we support might be considered by professionals to have capacity, but they are not able to tell us why they got so distressed the other day. We may need to use a professionally curious approach and ask more questions

Informed by the wider context

A professionally curious approach is one which is informed not just by what is in front of you but by the wider context. For example, work done by the Learning Difficulty and Mortality Review (LeDeR) highlights the urgency of robustly challenging a lack of access to healthcare. 

The CQC’s work on closed cultures’ can help us understand the signs of an environment which might harbour abuse.

Test your knowledge

Are you able to think of any potential causes for concern that may trigger some professionally curious’ questions? 

List the ones you can think of and then have a look at the list we have put together.

Have a go at our quiz to test your knowledge about this subject.