Who is an adult at risk?

Someone over 18 years old who:

  • has needs for care and support (whether or not we are meeting any of those needs) and;
  • is experiencing, or 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.  

What is abuse?

Abuse is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons. It may also be a criminal offence. Abuse hurts people in many ways: it can cause fear, suffering, injury or even death. Abuse can take many forms. It can be obvious but sometimes it is subtle.

Examples of abuse

  • Physical: restraint, over medication, hitting or threatening to hurt someone
  • Financial: Pressure to change a will, share PIN number, taking or borrowing possessions without the owner’s consent, over charging, pressure selling
  • Psychological: name calling, discrimination, threats, humiliation, not listening to a person's wishes
  • Sexual: touching, marriage or sexual acts without a person’s consent, professionals involved in intimate relationships with their clients
  • Domestic abuse: controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse by someone who is or has been an intimate partner or family member
  • Organisation abuse: including neglect or poor care within an institution or specific care setting
  • Self- neglect: this covers a wide range of behaviour - neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviours such as hoarding
  • Modern slavery: encompasses slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude

Who abuses?

Anyone can become an abuser. Most abusers are known by the adult at risk. The abuse can happen anywhere – in the home, in the community, in day or residential care, in hospital or at college. Abusers can be a:

  • family member
  • friend
  • neighbour
  • a paid carer
  • a health or care professional
  • work colleague

What should I do if I suspect abuse?

  • always listen carefully
  • make a note of what has happened or what you are worried about
  • if you are an adult who is being abused, or think you may be, talk to someone you trust or contact us
  • if you are a person, an adult at risk trusts to tell about abuse, ask their permission to contact us, or the police, if a criminal offence is suspected
  • if you are a paid carer or volunteer, tell your manager or another manager in your agency

What happens next?

  • we will listen and take you seriously
  • we will help decide which the most appropriate agency to work with you is
  • we can visit you, or the adult at risk and find out what is happening
  • we will work with you to investigate and establish the facts
  • if necessary, we can help you to report the abuse to the police or other agencies who may be able to help with an investigation


To learn more about this topic you can use our free safeguarding adults e-learning tool

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