Adult abuse

How to raise concerns about the safety and wellbeing of a vulnerable adult.

All public services, the police, local authorities and the NHS take adult abuse very seriously.  We call keeping people safe from harm and abuse 'safeguarding'. 

Who is at risk of abuse?

People may be at risk of abuse if they:

  • depend on other people for their care
  • are older, frail and unable to protect themselves
  • have mental health problems
  • have a physical or learning disability
  • have serious sight or hearing impairment
  • have dementia
  • misuse alcohol or drugs
  • have a long-term illness

What is abuse?

Abuse can happen anywhere - at home, in a care home, hospital or day centre or in public.  Anyone can abuse.

Abuse takes many forms. It includes:

  • physical abuse such as:
    • hitting, pushing kicking
    • restraining someone inappropriately
    • misusing medication
    • controlling what someone eats
    • denying someone of their liberty
  • psychological/emotional abuse such as:
    • intimidation, threats, humiliation, extortion
    • racial, verbal or psychological abuse
  • sexual abuse such as:
    • rape, indecent exposure, inappropriate looking or touching
    • involving a person in a sexual activity which is unwanted or not understood
  • neglect and acts of omission including:
    • not providing food, clothing, attention or care
    • withholding of aids or equipment (continence, walking, hearing, glasses)
    • failure to provide access to appropriate health or social care
    • misuse of medication by inappropriately giving medication, overdosing or withholding it
    • imposed isolation or confinement 
  • financial or material abuse such as:
    • ​theft or misuse of money, property or personal possessions
    • putting pressure on a person in connection with wills, property or inheritance
    • postal or internet scams
  • self-neglect including:
    • a person being unable or unwilling to care for their own essential needs, including their health or surroundings (for example, their home may be very unclean, or there may be a fire risk due to their hoarding)
  • discriminatory including:
    • ​treating people less favourably or unfairly on the grounds of their race, ethnicity, religion or belief, age, gender, gender identity, disability, culture, sexuality or mental health needs 
    • hate crime
  • modern slavery including:
    • ​a person being forced to work for little or no pay, being held against their will, tortured or treated badly by others
      More details about modern slavery are available on the GOV.UK website (opens in a new window)
  • organisational abuse such as:
    • ​neglect and providing poor care in a care setting such as a hospital or care home, or in a person's own home 
  • domestic violence and abuse including
    • ​threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been in a relationship together, or between family members, regardless of gender or sexuality
    • a one-off incident or a pattern of incidents or threats, violence or controlling behaviour
    • being forced to marry, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation (FGM).
      We have further information about domestic violence and abuse.

Find out more about the types of abuse from the Safeguarding Adults Board website (opens in a new window)

    Page last updated: 22/06/2021 17:21