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Safeguarding Adults at Risk

Who is an Adult at risk?

Anyone over the age of 18 needs for care and support (whether or not the local authority is meeting any of the 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. Many frail or confused older people are especially vulnerable. It can happen in someone's own home, a care home, a hospital, a day centre or a public place.  


  • Being provided with a lack of food
  • Lack of company
  • Lack of personal care

It could be:-

  • Someone regularly leaving the person for long periods of time or abandoning them
  • Someone not helping them to access food, warmth, medication or medicines
  • Someone not helping them to go to the toilet or wash
  • Someone not helping them to get what they need from the health, social care or education services

Signs include:-

  • Ulcers, bedsores or other symptoms of poor care
  • Neglected, old or inappropriate clothing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Carers stopping health professionals or visitors going to see the person
  • Not being allowed to have access to communication aids such as glasses or hearing aids

Physical abuse

  • Kicking, spitting, hitting, slapping
  • Threatening to hit, kick or aggressively hurt someone
  • Misuse of medication
  • Not being careful when handling the vulnerable person
  • Restraining the vulnerable person inappropriately

Tell-tales signs of physical abuse

  • Unexplained bruising or injuries, especially around areas that are well-protected such as the inside of the upper arms or upper legs
  • Burn marks, which may have been caused by cigarettes and carpet burns
  • Not giving the person the medicine they need
  • Health professionals can't easily see the adult at risk as a relative or carer is stopping them

Sexual abuse

Any type of sexual or inappropriate act or activity, including:-

  • Rape or any other sexual touching or activity that the adult at risk does not consent to or might not understand
  • When some sort of act takes place and that person isn't able to give their informed consent
  • When a sexual relationship develops with someone in a position of trust or authority such as a carer, health worker or day care worker

Signs include:-

  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or genital infections
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Torn or stained clothing
  • The adult at risk is withdrawn


Psychological, emotional or mental abuse is just as harmful as any other type of abuse, including:

  • bullying, harassment or intimidation
  • insults, humiliation
  • being trapped somewhere, like being locked in a room (deprivation of liberty)
  • verbal abuse such as swearing and making threats, threatening body language
  • not giving the person the right to make up their own mind and make their own decisions

Signs include:-

  • under or over-eating at strange times
  • being anxious, or being confused
  • showing a loss of self-confidence
  • spending a lot of time by themselves

Discriminatory abuse

Adults at risk can be discriminated against in a number of ways. Discrimination can be based on attitudes about:

  • Person's disability
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Appearance
  • Cultural background
  • Sexual orientation

Institutional/Organisational abuse

This usually occurs when the individual needs of the person are ignored in favour of set procedures and routines, leading to serious impact on the person's quality of life. Examples include: restrictive bedtimes, inadequate activities for mental and spiritual fulfilment, rigid visiting times or non-compliance with a personal care plan. Institutional abuse can typically occur in a care home, nursing home or hospital. It can affect anyone receiving care service.

Financial abuse

This is common and everyone needs to be vigilant and look out for the signs. It is another name for depriving someone of their goods, money or property.

  • family members saying that they are "just getting their inheritance in advance"
  • misuse of Powers of Attorney, including removing or controlling someone's finances without permission
  • coercion, theft or fraud
  • borrowing money from someone you are providing care for

Signs include:

  • unexplained or sudden inability to pay bills
  • unexplained or sudden withdrawal of money from accounts
  • extraordinary interest by family members and other people in the adults are risk's assets
  • power of attorney is obtained when the adult at risk is not able to understand the purpose of the document they are signing
  • recent change of deeds or title of property
  • the person who manages the financial affairs is evasive or uncooperative
  • a high level of expenditure without evidence of the person benefiting
  • the purchase of items which the person does not require or use
  • Personal possessions go missing from the person's home
  • they don't live in conditions that match the money the person receives

Who may be an abuser?

Abuse is carried out by many different people, but it's usually someone who is known and trusted. It may be:

  • Family members
  • Neighbours
  • Care worker or volunteer
  • Friend
  • Anyone with access to the person.

 For further information please see Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Adult Safeguarding Partnership website.

Last updated 20 March 2020

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