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  • Protecting vulnerable adults
    Protecting vulnerable adults
    Find out how to recognise the signs of abuse and what to do.

Safeguarding is protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. 

Some adults with care and support needs are not always able to protect themselves.

If you are an adult experiencing abuse or neglect, or if you are worried about an adult you think may be at risk, please contact the Adult Social Care Team.

  • Call 020 7332 1224 - 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Call 0208 356 2300 - for all other times, including weekends and Bank Holidays

Call 999 if you think a person is at risk of immediate harm.

Find full contact details for the Adult Social Care Team.

What is considered abuse?

Abuse can come in many different forms. If you have any concerns about somebody but are unsure what they are experiencing counts as abuse, please contact us so we can discuss it with you.

​Abuse is any action by another person that causes significant harm to an individual. It can be neglect, physical, sexual or emotional harm.

Abuse can also be about a lack of care and attention. Neglect, whatever form it takes, can be just as damaging to a person as physical abuse.

Below are some of the many different forms abuse can take: 

  • Physical - including hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, restraining or inappropriate sanctions.
  • Sexual - including rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the adult at risk has not consented, could not consent or was pressured into consenting to.
  • Psychological - including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of human contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.
  • Financial or material - including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits. See more information in our Financial abuse leaflet (503KB)
  • Neglect or acts of omission - including ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health care, social care, education services or misuse of medication, adequate nutrition or heating.
  • Discrimination - including racist, sexist behaviour and harassment based on a person's ethnicity, race, culture, sexual orientation, age or disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.

Institutional abuse

​This can sometimes happen in residential homes, nursing homes or hospitals and is when people are mistreated because of poor or inadequate care, neglect, and poor practice that affects the whole of that service.

Any of these forms of abuse can be either deliberate, the result of negligence or due to a lack of training, knowledge or understanding.

Who might be abusing an adult?

​While it is certainly true that anybody could be abusing an at-risk adult, it is most commonly carried out by those known to the victim, including, but not limited to:  

  • relatives
  • paid care workers
  • volunteers
  • other service users
  • neighbours
  • friends and associates.

What are the signs of abuse?

​Although there may not always be visible signs that a vulnerable adult is being abused, a display of the following may be a sign of abuse: 

  • 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.

If you have noticed any of these signs, it doesn't mean that an adult is definitely at risk.

However, please let us know about anything you've noticed that you're worried or uncertain about. We can give you free advice and support and help you keep the person safe.