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Protection from abuse and neglect

Everyone has the right to live safely, free from abuse and neglect – regardless of age. However, if you feel at risk yourself, or you're concerned about someone else, it's important to remember that there's help available. 


What is safeguarding?

Adults with care and support needs – for example, a disability, health condition or mental illness – can be at an increased risk of abuse and neglect, and less able to protect themselves from harm.

Safeguarding is the protection of the rights of those at risk. The Care Act 2014 sets out duties for local councils so that they must make enquiries when concerns about abuse or neglect arise. One of the aims of a safeguarding enquiry is to work out whether action is needed to safeguard an adult and, if so, what action is needed. 


What is abuse and neglect?

We go into more detail about the many forms of abuse and neglect below. Incidents of abuse and neglect may be one-off or they may be multiple, and they can affect one person or more. Someone can also be affected by more than one type of abuse at the same time.

To find out more about each form of abuse and neglect, click on the titles below. 

Domestic abuse

Many of the types of abuse listed here (physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse) will also be domestic abuse if they're perpetrated by someone you're connected to, such as:

  • your current or ex-partner
  • your adult child
  • your adult grandchild
  • another family member.

Any person of any age and any gender can experience domestic abuse, including older people.

Find out more about domestic abuse

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Physical abuse

Physical abuse can include:

  • any form of physical harm
  • the misuse of medication
  • inappropriate use of restraint
  • things such as intentionally keeping a walking aid out of reach.

It doesn’t have to be repeated – any single act of physical abuse is serious.

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Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse can include:

  • threats of harm to you or others
  • controlling behaviour
  • intimidation
  • coercion
  • verbal abuse (such as humiliating you in front of others, shouting at you or repeatedly putting you down)
  • emotional abuse
  • isolating you from friends or loved ones.

This type of abuse can be very subtle and tricky to identify – it may be that you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. It can even be experienced alongside overwhelming feelings of love and happiness.

Often it’s a case of one person manipulating another to feel confused and a sense that they're to blame for the abuse they're experiencing.

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Financial abuse

This can include:

  • theft
  • fraud
  • exploiting your financial affairs
  • restricting your access to money, employment or possessions
  • pressuring and coercing you about your will, lasting power of attorney, property or inheritance.

Find out more about financial abuse

Anyone can commit financial abuse – a relative, a partner or a criminal. Unfortunately, financial scams are getting more sophisticated.

Find out more about scams

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Neglect

Neglect can include:

  • ignoring your medical or physical care needs
  • failing to provide you with access to appropriate health or social care.

Other examples include limiting your access to food, drink, medication or heating, restricting support with personal care, or not supporting you to attend medical appointments.

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Self-neglect

Self-neglect can include a wide range of activities such as hoarding or neglecting personal care which may impact on your own health or others. It can include a refusal to accept help with health and care needs.

Self-neglect must be considered alongside the Mental Capacity Act. We have the right to make what others may see as unwise decisions, even when they may impact on our long term wellbeing. 

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Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can include:

  • sexual assault
  • rape
  • sexual harassment
  • pressuring you to perform or take part in sexual acts you don't consent to (which can include non-contact sexual acts such as indecent exposure, online abuse and non-consensual pornographic activities).

No matter when sexual abuse occurs, even if it was years ago, it still matters. There's specific support available through the government's campaign, It Still Matters. 

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Discriminatory abuse

If you're mistreated or treated less favourably than other people based on your protected characteristics, this could be discriminatory abuse. Your protected characteristics are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion and belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

For example, your religious or cultural needs may be neglected if you're not allowed to pray at certain times or your requirement for halal meat isn't respected.

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Organisational abuse

Organisational abuse can include an incident or pattern of incidents involving ongoing ill-treatment within an organisation. This could involve neglect, acts of omission or poor practice as a result of inadequate structures, policies and practice.

An organisation could be:

  • a care home
  • a hospital
  • a day centre
  • homecare services.

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Modern slavery

Modern slavery can include slavery, human trafficking and domestic servitude. This can appear in different forms, such as:

  • forced prostitution
  • forced begging
  • forced criminal behaviour
  • forced work
  • forced marriage
  • forced organ donation.

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What can I do if I feel unsafe or if I’m worried about someone else?

If you're experiencing, or are at risk of, abuse or neglect – or you're concerned that someone else is – get in touch with your local authority's adult safeguarding team. To do this, you first need to find the contact details of your local council.

What if I'm unsure of who to contact?

If you're unsure of who to contact, you can:

  • call the ¿ Advice Line on 0800 678 1602
  • call Hourglass on 0808 808 8141 or . 

What will happen when I report abuse or neglect?

When you report abuse to the adult safeguarding team at your local council, they'll listen to the information you give them and assess what action is required. They'll ensure that you feel in control of what happens.

If you're the person at risk, you can ask for someone who you trust to support you, or you can ask for an advocate. If you have difficulties, or don't have the mental capacity to engage with the process, the local council may have a duty to appoint an advocate.

If you're not the person at risk and you reported concerns about someone else, then the same applies for them – they can ask for someone they trust or an advocate, and in some situations, the local council may have a duty to appoint them an advocate. 

If you’re at risk of further abuse, the adult safeguarding team will work with you to plan how you can stay safe. You must be fully involved at every stage of this process.

Phone icon We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local ¿s.

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Last updated: Apr 08 2024

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