We have a duty to make sure anyone who receives a care and support service (whether it is funded by the local authority or not) is safe from abuse or neglect.

We can give you tips and advice about staying safe, whether that is in your own home or when you are out and about.

Tell us if you or someone you know is at risk.

If someone is experiencing abuse or neglect, and because of their care and support needs they are unable to protect themselves, we will offer to help them.

Please read the information in the other sections of this page to find out more about how to identify abuse or neglect.

Vulnerable adults

A vulnerable adult is someone who is not able to care for or protect themselves for any reason. It might be someone who is usually able to manage but is unable to do so because of an accident or illness.

People who are isolated, live alone, have health problems, or who depend on others for their personal care and daily life are often most at risk.

The signs of abuse and neglect

The signs of neglect are not always easy to spot, but you may see or believe someone is being ill-treated, neglected, or abused in some way – it may be physical, psychological, financial or sexual. It may also involve discrimination or harassment. The person may be depressed and frightened, withdrawn and anxious. There might be an unexplained shortage of money although the person has an income that should meet their needs. You might notice that the person’s living standards are dropping. 

We are all very aware of the abuse of children and young people, but older people and people with physical or learning disabilities are also at risk. 

What to do if you think someone is being ill-treated or neglected

You should talk to the person first and advise them to ask for help. If they are unwilling to do that, but you still believe they are in danger, you should contact us and explain your concerns.

You should tell the person you are worried about what you are doing, and normally get their permission. But if you believe they are in danger, you may have to raise your concern without their consent.

Stopping the person you think is causing the problem

Do not talk to anyone other than the person you think is at risk and the professional you raise your concerns with. Talking to the person you think is responsible for the harm, may put you at risk too. It might warn them that others are aware of what they are doing and give them the opportunity to hide evidence.

What happens when you report your concerns to social services

We will decide the best things to do, based on the information you give us. If the person concerned is in immediate danger, we will talk to them and offer support to make them safe. If they are not in immediate danger, we will contact them, possibly with your help if this is the best way to gain their trust, and we will develop an action plan that they agree to, to keep them safe.

If they do not agree with the action plan

People with mental capacity have the right to refuse help offered to them, even if others believe that this puts them at risk.

The social worker and health professionals involved will consider the person’s capacity to make decisions about keeping themselves safe — or engage the services of an advocate if required.

Find out more about our Thinking it? Report it campaign to protect vulnerable adults from harm.

Last reviewed: March 26, 2024 by Helly

Next review due: September 26, 2024

Back to top