Recognising abuse

We are dedicated to ensuring that the safeguarding of adults with care and support needs is a key priority. Everyone has the right to live a life free from abuse and neglect. 

If you believe someone is being abused or is at risk of harm, please report your concern to us.

Who is at risk

An adult at risk is someone aged 18 or over who may be unable to take care of themselves. They may be unable to protect themselves from harm or from being exploited by others. An adult at risk may therefore be a person who:

  • is elderly and frail due to physical disability or cognitive impairment
  • has a learning disability
  • has a physical disability or sensory impairment
  • has mental health needs, including dementia or a personality disorder
  • has a long term illness
  • misuses substances and alcohol
  • is a carer who provides personal assistance or care to adults and is subject to abuse
  • is unable to demonstrate the capacity to make a decision and is in need of care and support.

Adults at risk are more likely to experience abuse than the rest of the population. They are also less likely to be able to take precautions to keep themselves safe or use services that will help them to stay safe.

Types of abuse

Abuse is mistreatment by any other person that violates someone’s human and civil rights. Abuse can vary, such as:

  • 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
  • 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. More information is available from the National Crime Agency
  • 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
  • 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
  • Self-neglect - this covers a wide range of behaviour neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding.

Any form of abuse can be deliberate or the result of ignorance. Often, if a person is being abused in one way, they are also being abused in other ways.

Further useful guidance and information on protecting adults is available from NI Direct website.

What is abuse? - Leaflet

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