Safeguarding adults

What to do and who to contact if you or someone you know is vulnerable and being abused.


Who is an adult at risk?

The Care Act 2014 defines an adult at risk as a person who has care and support needs and is, or is at risk of, being abused or neglected and unable to protect themselves against the abuse or neglect or risk of it because of those needs.

Mental capacity

Mental capacity refers to the ability to make decisions for yourself about your own life. Some people have difficulties in making such decisions. This is called ‘lacking capacity’.

Under the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) there are laws governing who can make decisions on someone else’s behalf, which help to safeguard vulnerable people.

What do we mean by abuse?

Abuse is a violation of a person’s human rights or dignity by someone else.

The Care Act statutory guidance identifies different types of abuse of an adult at risk as follows:

Physical abuse

Including assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate physical sanctions.

Domestic violence

Including psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse; so called ‘honour’ based violence.

Sexual abuse

Including rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking or touching, sexual teasing or innuendo, sexual photography, subjection to pornography or witnessing sexual acts, indecent exposure and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the adult has not consented or was pressured into consenting.

Psychological abuse

Including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, cyber bullying, isolation or unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or supportive networks.

Neglect and acts of omission

Including ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating


This covers a wide range of behaviour neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding.

Financial or material abuse

Including theft, fraud, internet scamming, coercion in relation to an adult’s financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

Modern slavery

Encompasses slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.

Discriminatory abuse

Including forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment; because of race, gender and gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion.

Organisational abuse

Including neglect and poor care practice within an institution or specific care setting such as a hospital or care home, for example, or in relation to care provided in one’s own home. This may range from one off incidents to on-going ill-treatment. It can be through neglect or poor professional practice as a result of the structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation.

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.

Who could be an abuser?

The person who is responsible for the abuse is often well known to the person abused and could be:

  • relatives and family members
  • professional staff
  • paid care workers
  • volunteers
  • other service users
  • neighbours
  • friends and associates, and
  • strangers

What are the signs?

Some of the signs to look for are:

  • multiple bruising or finger marks
  • injuries the person cannot give a good reason for
  • deterioration of health for no apparent reason
  • loss of weight
  • inappropriate or inadequate clothing
  • withdrawal or mood changes
  • a carer who is unwilling to allow access to the person
  • an individual who is unwilling to be alone with a particular carer
  • unexplained shortage of money

Who should you contact if you are worried?

In an emergency, please call 999.

If you are being abused or you suspect that someone you know may be the victim of abuse but it is not an emergency you should tell someone you trust, such as a family member, support worker, social worker, nurse or police officer.

Contact us using the details on this page to report concerns of abuse or neglect of an adult at risk in Hackney.

If you’re concerned about somebody in the City of London area (the financial district also known as the Square Mile), please contact the City of London Adult Social Care Team.

What happens after you contact us?

You will be told which social care or health team will be looking into your concerns. The social care or health care staff will find out as much as possible about what has happened and will contact you. A manager in the relevant health and social care team will decide whether investigation and protection are needed under London’s adult safeguarding procedures. The manager will also decide whether the adult at risk is entitled to an advocate to support them through the safeguarding process.

Hackney is committed to making safeguarding personal. This is a local government initiative to put the person at the centre of the safeguarding process.

  • we will listen carefully to the adult at risk and help them identify what will make them feel safer
  • we will try to reach agreement with the adult at risk about what needs to happen and be open and transparent about any disagreements
  • we will make sure that the adult at risk is involved as much as possible in making decisions about protective measures
Page updated on: 13 December 2019

Safeguarding Adults