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:

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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

The safeguarding duties apply to an adult who:

  • has needs for care and support (whether or not we are meeting any of those needs)
  • is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect
  • 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

What is abuse?

Abuse is when someone does something which is wrong that hurts you, makes you feel frightened or unhappy. 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 be one of the following or a combination:

  • physical - when someone hurts you, this could be kicking, slapping, biting, scratching or shaking you
  • sexual - this is when someone touches you on your private parts and you do not want them to. They may try to kiss you or make you have sex with them, or show you pictures of other people having sex
  • psychological or emotional - when people say things to you which are not nice, call you names, treat you like a child, laugh at you or ignore you
  • financial - this is when someone takes your money or things that belong to you, makes you pay for things or tells you how to spend your money
  • discriminatory - this is when somebody treats you unfairly because of the colour of your skin, your disability, your faith, because you speak a different language or because you are male or female or gay / lesbian / bisexual / transgender
  • neglect - this is when somebody who should help you doesn’t – they may not give you food, keep you safe, give you your medication or get you medical help
  • domestic abuse – this is when someone who is a close partner or family member abuses someone, which includes controlling, bullying, threatening behaviour, as well as all the types of abuse listed above.
  • institutional - this is when people who are paid to look after you do not respect you if you are living in a care home, in hospital, at a day centre or even in your own home. They may be unkind to you, ignore you or your wishes and not give you any choices. They may not have had the correct training or use the right equipment to look after you
  • modern slavery – this includes slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic slavery. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to bully, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and cruel treatment
  • self-neglect – this is when someone neglects to care for their own personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding.

Any of these forms of abuse can be either deliberate or be the result of ignorance, lack of training, knowledge or understanding. Often if a person is being abused in one way they are also being abused in other ways.

Abuse can happen anywhere – a person’s home, a residential or nursing home, hospital, the workplace, a day centre or educational establishment, in supported housing or in the street.

People can be vulnerable to abuse because of an illness or disability, such as people with a learning, sensory or physical disability, older people who depend on or need help from others and people with mental health problems or dementia.

The person who is responsible for the abuse is very often well known to the person being abused, for example, a paid carer or volunteer, health or social worker, relative or friend.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Other organisations and information

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

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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

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