Protection of vulnerable adults

A vulnerable adult is a person over 18 who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness.

A vulnerable adult is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or is unable to protect him or herself from significant harm or serious exploitation.

A vulnerable adult may be a person who:

  • Has a physical or sensory disability
  • Is physically frail or has a chronic illness
  • Has a mental illness or dementia
  • Has a learning disability
  • Is old and frail
  • Misuses drugs and/or alcohol
  • Has social or emotional problems
  • Exhibits challenging behaviour

A person's vulnerability will depend on their circumstances and environment, and each case must be considered individually.

What is adult abuse?

Abuse is mistreatment by any other person or persons that violates a person’s human and civil rights. The abuse can vary from treating someone with disrespect in a way which significantly affects the person’s quality of life, to causing actual physical suffering.

Abuse can happen anywhere – at home, in a residential or nursing home, a hospital, in the workplace, at a day centre or educational establishment, in supported housing or in the street.

Forms of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse - hitting, pushing, pinching, shaking, misusing medication, scalding, restraint, hair pulling.
  • Sexual abuse - rape, sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the vulnerable adult has not or could not have consented, or to which they were pressurised into consenting.
  • Psychological or emotional abuse - threats of harm or abandonment, being deprived of social or any other form of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, being prevented from receiving services or support.
  • Financial or material abuse - theft, fraud or exploitation, pressure in connection with wills and inheritance, misuse of property, possessions or benefits.
  • Neglect such as ignoring medical or physical care needs and preventing access to health, social care or educational services or withholding the necessities of life such as food, drink and heating.
  • Discriminatory abuse - based on race or sexuality or a person’s disability and other forms of harassment or slurs.
  • Institutional abuse - this sometimes happens in residential homes, nursing homes or hospitals when people are mistreated because of poor or inadequate care, neglect and poor practice that affects the whole of that service.

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.

If you suspect that a vulnerable adult is being abused, please contact the Safeguarding Unit on 01495 762200.

Last Modified: 19/03/2020
For more information contact:

Safeguarding Unit

Tel: 01495 762200


Back to top