Adult safeguarding – helping adults at risk

What does safeguarding adults mean?

Safeguarding means protecting the health, wellbeing and human rights of adults at risk, enabling them to live safely, free from abuse and neglect.  Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility.

It is about people and organisations working together to prevent and reduce both the risks and experience of abuse or neglect.  It also means making sure that the adult's wellbeing is supported and their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs are respected when agreeing on any action.

Who is an 'adult at risk'?

An 'adult at risk' is someone who may be in need of help because they have care and support needs. They may be unable to stop someone else from harming or exploiting them.

Abuse happens when someone hurts you or treats you badly. It can be accidental or deliberate. Abuse can take many forms. There doesn't need to be an injury for abuse to have taken place.  Neglect is when someone who is meant to look after you does not look after you properly.

What do we mean by abuse?

Abuse is described as a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons which results in significant harm. Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts. Abuse can occur in any relationship and may result in significant harm to, or exploitation of, the person subjected to it.

What forms do abuse and neglect take?

Physical abuse – including hitting, slapping, pushing, unnecessary restraint or misusing medications.

Domestic violence – including all types of abuse between family members or partners; so called ‘honour’ based violence.

Sexual abuse – including inappropriate touching, indecent exposure, rape, harrassment or any sexual acts the adult has not consented to.

Psychological abuse – including emotional abuse, threats of harm, attempts to control, coercion, verbal abuse and bullying.

  • 'Cuckooing' is a term used where criminals exploit vulnerable people by taking over their homes to deal drugs and commit other crimes

Financial or material abuse – including theft, fraud, coercion with regard to financial affairs 

Modern slavery – including forced labour and human trafficking.

Discriminatory abuse – harassment or slurs due to someone's race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or gender identity.

Organisational abuse – including neglect and poor care practice within a care setting or in relation to care provided in one’s own home.

Neglect and Acts of Omission – failure to act or ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs.

Self-neglect – neglecting to care for your own health, hygiene or surroundings. This can include hoarding.


The six principles for safeguarding adults are:

Empowerment – presumption of person led decisions and informed consent

Prevention – it is better to take action before harm occurs

Proportionality – proportionate and least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented

Protection – support and representation for those in greatest need

Partnerships – local solutions through services working with their communities

Accountability – accountability and transparency in delivering