Table of contents

Who's at risk and why?

Adults :: Safeguarding :: Who's at risk and why?

Vulnerable adults are defined by government guidance called No Secrets (2000) as people (a) who or may be in need of community care services because of mental or other disability, age or illness, and/or (b) who are unable to care for themselves or unable to protect themselves from significant harm or exploitation. The guidance refers to harm in terms of 'abuse'.

Abuse is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons.

Abuse of a vulnerable adult may consist of a single act or repeated acts. It may occur as a result of a failure to undertake action or appropriate care tasks. It may be an act of neglect or an omission to act, or it may occur where a vulnerable person is persuaded to enter into a financial or sexual transaction to which they have not, or cannot, consent. Abuse can occur in any relationship and may result in significant harm to, or exploitation of, the individual. However for some clients the issues of abuse relate to neglect and poor standards of care. They are ongoing and if ignored may result in a severe deterioration in both physical and mental health and even death. Abuse might be physical, sexual, psychological, financial or material, neglect and acts of omission, discriminatory or institutional. This could include people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, older people and people with a physical disability or impairment. It also includes people whose condition and subsequent vulnerability fluctuates. It may include an individual who may be vulnerable as a consequence of their role as a carer in relation to any of the above (on average, 20% of the referrals in Medway, cite the main carer as the alleged perpetrator). It may also include victims of domestic abuse, hate crime and anti-social abuse behavior. The persons' need for additional support to protect themselves may be increased when complicated by additional factors, such as, physical frailty or chronic illness, sensory impairment, challenging behaviour, drug or alcohol problems, social or emotional problems, poverty or homelessness. Many vulnerable adults may not realise that they are being abused. For instance an elderly person, accepting that they are dependent on their family, may feel that they must tolerate losing control of their finances or their physical environment. They may be reluctant to assert themselves for fear of upsetting their carers or making the situation worse.