Protecting vulnerable adults from harm

Safeguarding adults - report abuse or neglect

Find out about how to report abuse, what happens once it is reported, your rights and other useful information:

Report abuse of an adult

If you are worried that you or someone you know is in immediate danger, you should call the police on 999.

If the person you are worried about is not in immediate danger then you can report suspected abuse of an adult using our online form.

Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults – make a report

If you would rather speak to us, or if you need any help completing the form, you can contact us:

Back to the top of the page

Reporting abuse of a child - call 0300 300 8585

If you want to report abuse of a child, please call the Children’s Team on 0300 300 8585.

Safeguarding adults from abuse and neglect

What is abuse and neglect?

Abuse is mistreatment by any other person or people that violates a person’s human and civil rights. The abuse can vary from treating someone with disrespect in a way which significantly affects the person’s quality of life, to causing actual physical suffering.

Abuse can happen anywhere – in a residential or nursing home, a hospital, in the workplace, at a day centre or educational establishment, in supported housing or in the community.

Safeguarding adults from abuse applies to adults with care and support needs, examples of who might be a person with care and support needs:

  • people with a learning disability, sensory or physical disability
  • older people who depend on or need help from others
  • people with mental health needs
  • people with dementia

Forms of abuse include:

  • physical abuse such as hitting, pushing, pinching, shaking, misusing medication, scalding, restraint, hair pulling
  • sexual abuse such as rape, sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the adult has not or could not have consented, or to which they were pressurised into consenting, sexual exploitation
  • psychological or emotional abuse such as threats of harm or abandonment, being deprived of any form of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, being prevented from receiving services or support
  • financial or material abuse such as theft, fraud or exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property, or inheritance, misuse of property, possessions or benefits
  • neglect or acts of omission such as ignoring medical or physical care needs and preventing access to health, social care or educational services or withholding the necessities of life such as food, drink and heating
  • discriminatory abuse such as that based on race or sexuality or a person’s disability and other forms of harassment or slurs
  • institutional or organisational abuse can sometimes happen in residential homes, nursing homes or hospitals when people are mistreated because of poor or inadequate care, neglect and poor practice that affects the whole of the service
  • domestic abuse: an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer
  • modern slavery including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude, and slavery where people are exploited for someone else’s gain
  • self-neglect, a wide range of behaviour neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding. Where someone demonstrates lack of care for themselves and/or their environment and refuses assistance or services

Any of these forms of abuse can be either deliberate or be the result of ignorance, or lack of training, knowledge or understanding.

What if the abuse is also a crime?

If the abuse is also a crime such as assault, racial harassment, rape or theft you should involve the police to prevent someone else from being abused. If the police are involved, we will work with them and with you to support you. If a crime is indicated and/or the individual requires urgent medical care, the Emergency Services should be contacted by dialling 999.

Who might be causing the abuse?

  • a person known to the adult (friend/family or member/carer)
  • a paid carer/volunteer
  • health worker, social care or another worker
  • relative, friend or neighbour
  • another resident or person with care and support needs
  • an occasional visitor or someone providing a service

What do you do if you are being abused or suspect that someone you know might be the victim of abuse?

You should contact the Safeguarding Adults Team as soon as possible, either online via email or telephone

Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults – make a report


You can email this form to

Contact us by telephone

Telephone: 0300 300 8122 (Monday to Friday 8:45am to 5:20pm)
Out of hours: 0300 300 8123

Download our guides below for more information on how to protect yourself:

You can also listen to an audio version of our safeguarding vulnerable adults leaflet.

Back to the top of the page

What happens after reporting abuse or neglect?

We will listen to your concerns. You can talk to us about your own situation or about someone else you are worried about.

We will treat everything you say in the strictest confidence.

Get help

It is important to remember that if you are being abused, it is not your fault. Please don't worry about telling others that you think you are being abused - it is important that you get help. If you want, you can ask someone else to contact us on your behalf.

We will advise of the next steps

We may ask you some questions to ensure that we understand the circumstances fully. We will then advise you about what is likely to happen next.

The Safeguarding Adults team will look into your concerns; this is a small team of senior social workers and support workers. They are all experienced in working with adults with care and support needs.

Immediate support

If you, or the person you are concerned about, are in critical danger, we will visit immediately and offer support to reduce the risks.

If you, or the person you are concerned about, are at substantial risk of harm, we will visit within 48 hours.

For other reports of abuse we will normally visit within 5 working days.

We will work with you, or the person you are concerned about, to help with making any decisions. We will provide help and support to try to end the abuse and make sure it does not happen again.

We will not normally share information with other people without the permission of the person who is being abused. The only exception to this is in situations where others may be at risk of abuse or the person is not able to make decisions for themselves.

When to call the police

If the abuse is also a crime, such as domestic abuse, assault, hate crime, rape or theft, you should involved the police to prevent someone else from being abused. If the police are involved, we will work with them and with you to support you.

Back to the top of the page

Your rights

Everyone is entitled to live their life in safety without being mistreated, hurt or exploited by others. But some people's situations may make them more vulnerable to abuse and less able to protect themselves from harm or mistreatment.

Mistreating someone with care and support needs is abuse.

Failing to properly look after a person with care and support needs in your care is known as 'neglect'.

Both abuse and neglect of people with care and support needs is never acceptable.

We believe that everyone should:

  • be free from violence, abuse and fear
  • be respected by other people
  • be able to make choices about what affects them
  • feel safe

It is important to remember that if you are being abused, it is not your fault.

We take abuse of people with care and support needs very seriously - we will listen to your concerns and give you a prompt response.

Back to the top of the page

Other organisations and information

Below is a list of organisations and agencies that can provide help, support or advice on safeguarding vulnerable adults:

Back to the top of the page

Mental Capacity Act 2005: information for the public

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 is a law that came into force in 2007 and applies to people living in England and Wales over the age of 16. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides requirements to support people who may 'lack mental capacity' as well as giving a legal framework for carrying out assessments and making decisions on an incapacitated person's behalf.

The spirit and intention of the act can be summarised as:

'…enabling and supportive of people who lack capacity, not restricting or controlling of their lives' (Mental Capacity Act 2005 Code of Practice, 2007)

The definition of 'lacking mental capacity'

This is provided in section 2 of the act:

'For the purposes of this Act, a person lacks capacity in relation to a matter if at the material time he is unable to make a decision for himself in relation to the matter because of an impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain.'

Mental Capacity is Issue Specific and Time Specific - about a real decision at the time it is required to be made.

Whether it is relating to day-to-day decisions, that affect daily life, or more serious or significant decisions, the same definition and ‘test of capacity’ applies

The process of making 'best interests' decisions

The process of making 'best interests' decisions (when a person is assessed as lacking mental capacity in the particular decision) is provided in section 4 of the act and summarised below:

  1. avoid discrimination
  2. consider whether the person might regain capacity
  3. encourage participation
  4. not be motivated in any way by a desire to bring about the person's death
  5. identify all the relevant circumstances
  6. the person's wishes, feelings, beliefs and values
  7. consult others
  8. take all of this into account:
    • avoid restricting the person's rights
    • weigh up all of these factors in order to work out what's in the person's best interests

Statutory principles

The Mental Health Capacity Act 2005 has five statutory principles, which must be followed:

  • a person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that he/she lacks capacity.
  • a person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help him/her to do so have been taken without success
  • a person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision merely because he/she makes an unwise decision
  • an act done, or decision made, under this Act for or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done, or made, in his/her best interests
  • before the act is done, or the decision is made, regard must be had to whether the purpose for which it is needed can be as effectively achieved in a way that is less restrictive of the person's rights and freedom of action

Key areas covered in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 are:

Helpful resources:

If you have any further questions in relation to the Mental Capacity Act 2005, you may also wish to speak with our Mental Capacity Act 2005 Lead Officer.

Telephone: 0300 300 8122

Back to the top of the page