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Protection from abuse

As we get older, we should be able to live safely. Sometimes though you may feel at risk, or be concerned about another person. If this happens there are people you can speak to and there is help available. 

What is Safeguarding?

Adults with care and support needs, (for example, a disability, health condition, mental illness or learning disability) can be at increased risk of abuse and neglect, and less able to protect themselves from harm.

Safeguarding is the protection of the rights of those at risk. The Care Act 2014 sets out clear duties for local councils to protect these rights by preventing or stopping abuse and neglect of adults with care and support needs.

What is abuse and neglect?

Every adult should be able to live safely, free from abuse and neglect. Most adults are able to do this, but research indicates that almost half a million people aged over 65 will experience some form of abuse or neglect.

Incidents of abuse and neglect may be one-off or multiple, and affect one person or more. Adults may also be affected by more than one type of abuse at the same time.

Click on the titles below to find out more about each form of abuse and neglect. 

Physical abuse

This can include:

  • any form of physical harm
  • the misuse of medication
  • inappropriate restraint.

It doesn’t have to be repeated, any single act of physical abuse is serious.

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Psychological Abuse

This can include:

  • threats of harm or abandonment
  • humiliation
  • controlling behaviour
  • intimidation
  • coercion
  • verbal abuse  
  • isolation.

This type of abuse can be very subtle and tricky to identify – it may be that you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. It can even be experienced alongside overwhelming feelings of love and happiness.

Often it’s a case of one person manipulating another to feel confused and a sense that they are to blame for the abuse they are experiencing.

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Financial abuse

This can include:

  • theft
  • fraud
  • exploitation in relation to a person’s financial affairs.
  • restricting a person’s access to money, employment or possessions.
  • pressurising a person about their will, a lasting power of attorney, property and inheritance.

Anyone can commit financial abuse – it can be a relative, partner or a scammer. Financial scams are getting more sophisticated.

Find out more about scams.

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This can include:

  • wilfully ignoring medical or physical care needs
  • failure to provide access to appropriate health or social care.

Common examples of neglect are limiting access to food, drink, medication or heating; restricting support to personal care or not supporting a person to attend medical appointments.

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This can include a wide range of activities such as hoarding or neglecting personal care which may impact on your own health or others.

Self-neglect must be considered alongside the Mental Capacity Act. We have the right to make what others may see as unwise decisions, even when they may impact on our long term well-being. 

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Sexual abuse

This can include:

  • sexual assault
  • rape
  • sexual harassment
  • pressurising a person to perform or take part in sexual acts they do not consent to. This can also include non-contact sexual acts such as indecent exposure, online abuse and non-consensual pornographic activities.

No matter when sexual abuse occurs, even if it was years ago, it still matters and there is specific support available through the government's It Still Matters campaign

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Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is any form of abuse committed by intimate partners, former partners or family members. Many of the types of abuse listed above (physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse) will also be domestic abuse if they are perpetrated by a partner or family member.

People often think of domestic abuse affecting younger people, but any person, any age, any gender can experience domestic abuse.

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Discriminatory abuse

This is unequal treatment based on protected characteristics:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion and belief
  • sex or sexual orientation.

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Organisational abuse

This can include an incident or pattern of incidents involving ongoing ill treatment within an organisation. This could involve neglect, acts of omission or poor practise as a result of inadequate structures, policies and practise.

An organisation could be:

  • a care home
  • a hospital
  • a day service
  • delivering care to a person’s home.

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Modern slavery

This can include slavery, human trafficking and domestic servitude. This can appear in different forms, such as:

  • forced prostitution
  • forced begging
  • forced criminal behaviour
  • forced work
  • forced marriage
  • forced organ donation.

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What can I do if I feel unsafe or if I’m worried about someone else?

The best way to protect yourself or a loved one and stop abuse from happening is to tell someone about it. This may feel difficult, especially if the person abusing you is a close friend or relative, but abuse and neglect is never acceptable. You don’t have to put up with it, and there is help available for you to put a stop to it.

If a paid or family carer is involved, you may also be worried that telling someone will mean that you lose the care and support that you need. Please be assured that your care and support needs will continue to be met as part of any safeguarding response. 

You can get support and advice from:

  • Adult Social Services at your local council
  • Your GP or other NHS health providers
  • The Care Quality Commission
  • Domestic Abuse helpline 0808 2000 247
  • Hourglass helpline: 0808 808 8141
  • The Police - You can call the local police on the 101 non-emergency number or call 999 immediately in an emergency
  • Pharmacies – ask staff for ‘ANI’ and they can provide immediate help.

Call the Age UK Advice Line 0800 678 1174 if you are concerned about abuse

What will happen if I report abuse?

When you report abuse to Adult Social Care at your local council, they will listen to the information you give them and assess what action is required. They will ensure that you feel in control of what happens.

You can ask for someone that you trust to support you, or you can ask for an advocate. If you (or the person you are concerned about) has difficulties, or does not have the mental capacity to engage with the process, the local authority will arrange for an advocate to provide support.

If you’re at risk of further abuse, the Adult Social Services team will work with you to plan how you stay safe. You must be fully involved at every stage of this process.

For more information call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 678 1602.
We’re open 8am to 7pm, every day of the year.

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Last updated: May 27 2021

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