Safeguarding: adults

Who is an adult at risk?

An adult at risk is an adult who:

  • has needs for care and support (whether or not the local authority is meeting any of those needs) and;
  • is experiencing, or at risk of abuse or neglect, and
  • as a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of, or the experience of abuse or neglect.

 Find out more about reporting it if you think an adult is at risk

You can read more about what happens when you report an issue on the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Adult Safeguarding Board


  • Being provided a lack of food
  • Lack of company
  • Lack of personal care

It could be:

  • Someone regularly leaving the person for long periods of time or abandoning them
  • Someone not helping them to access food, warmth, medication or medicines
  • Someone not helping them to go to the toilet or wash
  • Someone not helping them to get what they need from the health, social care or education services

Signs include

  • Ulcers, bedsores or other symptoms of poor care
  • Neglected, old or inappropriate clothing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Carers stopping health professionals or visitors going to see the person
  • Not being allowed to have access to communication aids such as glasses or hearing aids

Physical abuse

  • Kicking, spitting, hitting, slapping
  • Threatening to hit, kick or aggressively hurt someone
  • Misuse of medication
  • Not being careful when handling the vulnerable person
  • Restraining the vulnerable person inappropriately

Tell-tales signs of physical abuse 

  • Unexplained bruising or injuries, especially around areas that are well protected such as the inside of the upper arms or upper legs
  • Burn marks, which may have been caused by cigarettes and carpet burns
  • Not giving the person the medicine they need
  • Health professionals can't easily see the vulnerable person as a relative or carer is stopping them

Sexual abuse

Any type of sexual or inappropriate act or activity, including:

  • Rape or any other sexual touching or activity that the vulnerable person does not consent to or might not understand
  • When some sort of act takes place and that person isn't able to give their informed consent
  • When a sexual relationship develops with someone in a position of trust or authority, such as a carer, health worker or day care worker

Signs include

  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or genital infections
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Torn or stained clothing
  • The vulnerable adult is withdrawn


Psychological, emotional or mental abuse is just as harmful as any other type of abuse, including:

  • bullying, harassment or intimidation
  • insults, humiliation
  • being trapped somewhere, like being locked in a room (deprivation of liberty)
  • verbal abuse such as swearing and making threats, threatening body language
  • not giving the person the right to make up their own mind and make their own decisions

Signs include:

  • under or overeating at strange times
  • being anxious, or being confused
  • showing a loss of self-confidence
  • spending a lot of time by themselves

Discriminatory abuse 

Adults at risk can be discriminated against in a number of ways. Discrimination can be based on attitudes about:

  • Person's disability
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Appearance
  • Cultural background
  • Sexual orientation

Organisational Abuse

This usually occurs when the individual needs of the person are ignored in favour of set procedures and routines, leading to serious impact on the  person's quality of life. Examples include: restrictive bedtimes, inadequate activities for mental and spiritual fulfilment, rigid visiting times or non-compliance with a personal care plan. Institutional abuse can typically occur in a care home, nursing home or hospital. It can affect anyone receiving care service.

Financial abuse 

This is common and everyone needs to be vigilant and look out for the signs. It is another name for depriving someone of their goods, money or property.

  • family members saying that they are "just getting their inheritance in advance"
  • misuse of Powers of Attorney, including removing or controlling someone's finances without permission
  • coercion, theft or fraud
  • borrowing money from someone you are providing care for

Signs include:

  • unexplained or sudden inability to pay bills
  • unexplained or sudden withdrawal of money from accounts
  • extraordinary interest by family members and other people in the vulnerable person's assets
  • power of attorney is obtained when the vulnerable adult is not able to understand the purpose of the document they are signing
  • recent change of deeds or title of property
  • the person who manages the financial affairs is evasive or uncooperative
  • a high level of expenditure without evidence of the person benefitting
  • the purchase of items which the person does not require or use
  • Personal possessions go missing from the person's home
  • they don't live in conditions that match the money the person receives

Who may be an abuser?

Abuse is carried out by many different people, but it's usually someone who is known and trusted. It may be:

  • Family members
  • Neighbours
  • Care worker or volunteer
  • Friend
  • Anyone with access to the person.