Protecting vulnerable adults from abuse

Abuse is when someone does something to another person which puts them at risk of harm. It can happen once or repeatedly. It may be deliberate or unintentional for example caused by ignorance, stress or carer breakdown due to lack of support.

Abusers of adults can be anyone, family, friend, care or health worker. It is usually someone who is known to the victim. Abuse can happen anywhere. It may happen at home, in a care home, hospital, day centre or in a public place.

Abuse can be a criminal act.

There are 11 different categories of abuse but within each category, it can take on many forms. The categories are:

  • physical - includes hitting, slapping, punching, kicking or misuse of medication on someone
  • sexual - includes rape, sexual assault acts, or non-contact such as teasing or being photographed
  • psychological - includes threats or humiliating, controlling, intimidating someone
  • financial - includes stealing or tricking the person out of money or material possessions like their house or jewellery
  • domestic - includes controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, 'honour' based violence, female genital mutilation or forced marriage
  • discrimination - treating someone unfairly because of their disability, race, religious beliefs or sexuality
  • neglect - leaving someone without food or heating, refusing to take care of their personal needs, failing to provide access to appropriate health and social care
  • self-neglect - includes not caring for your own personal hygiene, health or surroundings
  • organisational - when paid staff in a care home, hospital or home care agency do not care for people properly or respect their rights
  • modern slavery - when people are forced to work for little or no pay
  • sexual exploitation - sexual abuse in exchange for something, for example money, accommodation, gifts or affection, and could appear to be a consensual relationship

Recognising who is at risk of abuse or neglect

An 'adult at risk' is a person 18 years or older who:

  • has needs for care and support - whether or not the local authority is meeting any of those needs
  • is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect
  • and as a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of, or the experience of abuse or neglect

Care Act (2014), Department of Health

Some adults may be more at risk than others including:

  • people who depend on others for their care
  • older people who are dependent on others
  • people with mental health problems
  • people with learning or physical disabilities
  • people with sight or hearing impairment or loss
  • people with dementia
  • people who misuse substances
  • people with long term health needs
  • people who self neglect
  • people who are unable to demonstrate the capacity to make a decision and are in need of care and support
  • unpaid carers such as family or friends

This does not mean any person who is old, frail or has a disability is at risk. The vulnerability of the adult at risk is related to:

  • how able they are to make and exercise their own informed choices - these choices must be free from undue influence of any sort
  • how able they are to protect themselves from abuse, neglect and exploitation

It is important to note people with capacity can also be vulnerable.

'Safeguarding Adults' is the process by which we:

  • help adults at risk decide how they would like to keep themselves safe - where they are able to make these decisions
  • work together with family, friends and other organisations to create a plan that allows them to remain safe
  • make a plan that meets their needs and wishes when they are unable to make these decisions for themselves

If someone discloses abuse to you

What to do if someone discloses abuse to you
Do Don't
stay calm and listen to them press the person for more details (these can be taken later)
take what you are being told seriously assume that someone else is aware of the situation and will act
reassure them they have done the right thing by telling you contact the alleged abuser
where possible, make sure that evidence is preserved as this might be needed promise to keep it a secret
make a written note of what you have been told be afraid to contact adult social care or the police to discuss it
contact adult social care or the police

Always make sure of the safety of the adult and any other person at risk (including yourself). If there is any question of immediate danger or need for medical attention,  contact the emergency services on 999. If the adult is not in any immediate danger but the abuse is of a criminal nature, contact Thames Valley Police on 101.

If you have concerns about a care home, home-care agency or other adult social care service, you can contact the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulatory body that monitors the quality of care provided by this organisation. You can phone the CQC on 03000 616161.

If you are concerned about someone, phone Adult Social Care on 01344 351500.

If emergency help is required when the office is closed, the Out of Hours Team can be contacted on 01344 351999.

If you think someone is in immediate danger, phone emergency services on 999. Do not put yourself or anyone else at risk

Or you can report your concern using our report a safeguarding concern form.

Report a safeguarding concern