How do I know if someone is being abused and what do I do?

Who is a vulnerable adult?
A vulnerable adult is someone aged 18 years or over, who is not able to care for or protect themselves from harm or exploitation. This might be due to their age, mental health, sensory loss or a physical or learning disability and therefore maybe eligible for social care services.

Abuse can:
• be an act which goes against your human rights;
• be a single act or repeated acts;
• happen in any relationship;
• result in harm; or
• take advantage of someone’s vulnerability.

What kinds of abuse are there?
There are six main types of abuse:

• physical – for example, shaking, pinching, slapping, force-feeding, biting, improper administration or denial of medication;

• psychological – for example, intimidating, rejection, threatening or ignoring;

• financial – for example, the illegal or unauthorised use of a person’s property, money, pension book or other valuables and pressure in connection with wills;

• sexual – for example, forcing a person to take part in any sexual activity without consent;

• neglect – for example, where a person is deprived of food, heat, clothing, comfort or medication; and

• discriminatory – including racist, sexist and other forms of harassment.

Where can abuse happen?
Abuse can happen in any setting and this could take place in someone’s own home, in a hospital or residential care home, in a day centre or in a public place.

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How do I report abuse?
If you have heard or seen something that worries you, or if you think someone is being abused, please tell us about it by calling the Adult Social Care Contact Centre on 0800 561 0015 or email

If a crime is being committed or you are scared for somebody’s immediate safety then call 999 or in a non emergency 101.