Safeguarding adults

A vulnerable adult is a person aged 18 years or over who may be unable to take care of themselves, or protect themselves from harm or from being exploited. This may be because they have a mental health problem, a disability, a sensory impairment, are old and frail, or have some form of illness.

There are different forms of abuse, including: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, financial or material abuse, neglect, discriminatory abuse, and institutional abuse. Any of these forms of abuse can be either deliberate or be the result of ignorance, or lack of training, knowledge or understanding. Often if a person is being abused in one way they are also being abused in other ways.

The person who is responsible for the abuse is very often well known to the person abused and could be:

  • a paid carer or volunteer;
  • a health worker, social care or other worker;
  • a relative, friend or neighbour;
  • another resident or service user;
  • an occasional visitor or someone who is providing a service; or
  • people who deliberately exploit vulnerable people.

Every day abuse of adults at risk goes unreported. Safeguarding adults means that local authorities, police and NHS agencies involved with adults who might be at risk of abuse have a duty of care to ensure that procedures are in place that encourage reporting of suspected abuse, and take action to stop the abuse.

Page updated October 2015