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Safeguarding Adults

Last updated: 30/04/2020

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 requires 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.

Every day across the United Kingdom, people experience some kind of abuse, ill treatment or neglect.

The process of helping those adults to keep themselves safe or putting in place plans to help protect people who cannot protect themselves, is called 'safeguarding adults'.

Every adult has a right to make their own decisions and take risks; however, some adults are at greater risk of being abused because they rely on another person to manage day to day living.  Some adults may be more at risk and less able to protect themselves from harm or exploitation as a result of age, frailty, disability, illness or their lifestyle.

Who is an adult at risk?

An adult at risk is a person who: 

  • is 18 years or over
  • has health or social care needs, including carers (irrespective of whether or not those needs are being met by services)
  • may be at risk of harm
  • may be unable to safeguard themselves as a result of their health or social care needs. (Law Commission review 2011)

An adult at risk of abuse or neglect is defined as someone who has needs for care and support, who is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect and as a result of their care needs - is unable to protect themselves. All partners should be using this definition when raising a concern about abuse/neglect of an adult.

If you are concerned that a child, young person or adult is at risk of or experiencing abuse or neglect, or you, yourself, are a victim of abuse, you should report it straight away so that the appropriate services can take the appropriate actions to prevent harm (see ‘Report abuse’ buttons at the top of this page).

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. There are different types of abuse and these are identified in more detail on Types of Abuse

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 who have a part to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse

Accountability – accountability and transparency in delivering.


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