Staying safe

Protection from abuse

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Abuse is defined as any behaviour towards a person that deliberately or unknowingly:

  • causes them harm
  • endangers life
  • violates their rights

Everyday adults who are at risk are:

  • physically
  • sexually
  • financially
  • psychologically abused
  • discriminated against
  • neglected

Adults most at risk of abuse are those individuals aged 18 years and over who may be unable to:

  • protect themselves against abuse, harm or exploitation
  • speak out for themselves
  • take care of themselves

If you or someone you know is suffering abuse, harm or exploitation, then please don't keep silent. Reporting your concerns may help to protect an adult at risk from further abuse. It could ultimately save their life.

Report abuse by calling the Safeguarding Adults services team:


What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding Adults is about preventing and responding to allegations of abuse and neglect. Safeguarding is about working with local people and our partners so that adults at risk are:

  • safe and able to protect themselves from abuse and neglect
  • treated fairly and with dignity and respect
  • protected when they need to be
  • able to easily get the support, protection and services that they need when they need them.

Safeguarding Adults covers the support in place for those who need it to help protect them from abuse, harm, neglect or exploitation

Who may be at risk of abuse?

An adult a risk is defined as someone who: 

  • has needs for care and support (whether or not the local authority is 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.
  • may be older, may have a physical or learning disability or a mental health problem
  • self-neglects or anyone who is unable to protect themselves from abuse, harm or exploitation by others.

It is important to note that abuse can:

  • consist of a single act or repeated acts
  • be intentional or unintentional or result from a lack of knowledge
  • be an act of neglect, an omission or a failure to act
  • cause harm temporarily or over a period of time
  • occur in any relationship
  • be perpetrated by anyone, individually or as part of a group or organisation
  • often constitute a crime, i.e. physical, sexual or sexual abuse
  • adults living with other family members who are financially dependent on them

Patterns of abuse

  • serial abusing - where the person alleged to have caused harm seeks out or 'grooms' those individuals more vulnerable or at risk of abuse. Sexual abuse often falls into this pattern, as do some forms of financial abuse
  • long term abuse - in the context of an ongoing family relationship such as domestic violence between spouses / partners or between generations
  • opportunistic abuse - such as theft occurring because money or goods have been left around
  • situational abuse - where pressures have built up in coping with an individual's difficult or challenging behaviour.

Who can be an abuser?

Abuse can occur anywhere and be perpetrated by anyone. Adults at risk of abuse are sometimes abused by strangers, but more often, they are abused by someone known to them or in a position of trust. This may include:

  • a partner, relative, friend or child
  • a neighbour or someone from the community network
  • a paid carer or volunteer
  • a health, social care worker or other professional
  • another vulnerable adult
  • a non-carer or stranger
  • a friend or family member with a history of violent behaviour, alcohol or substance misuse or mental illness

What does Safeguarding Adults consist of?

The Safeguarding service does not need a specific incident that triggers concern, but rather your concern can centre around a general level of risk. By alerting us in these circumstances the safeguarding process can be used to prevent or reduce the possibility of abuse occurring, particularly if the concern is raised at the earliest opportunity. This enables risk factors to be reduced.

It might also be the case that an individual's own behaviour or condition places him or her at greater risk of harm. For example, due to the state of a person's mental ill-health or learning disability, he or she might exhibit behaviour that suggests to others a willingness to be drawn into a situation that might pose them some degree of risk.

Helpful support services

  • Safelives is a national charity supporting a strong multi-agency response to domestic abuse.
  • National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) specialises in providing free, fast and effective legal support to survivors of domestic violence.
  • Sign Health aims to improve healthcare and achieve equal access for deaf people. They work with the deaf community, health services and other charities. This page contains information on the practical and emotional support available to deaf women who are experiencing, or are survivors of, domestic abuse in order to help them to make choices and stay safe.
  • Trading Standards aims to protect individual consumers and traders by offering advice and guidance and enforcing government legislation.
  • Protect is a whistleblowing charity that aims to protect society by encouraging workplace whistleblowing.
  • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevents unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children. It replaces the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

Local support services

Information on Safeguarding Adults in other languages