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Last updated: 28.02.20

Best practice for safeguarding vulnerable adults

While safeguarding can have a larger emphasis on protecting vulnerable children, having measures in place to prevent the abuse and harassment of adults is just as important. Whether it’s to ensure that elderly people aren’t taken advantage of in care homes or properly protecting vulnerable adults from abuse in the workplace, understanding what constitutes safeguarding best practice for adults is an essential thing for those in relevant roles to know.

Following the Care Act 2014

After coming into full effect in 2015, The Care Act was one of the most significant reforms made to care and support, primarily giving adults and those responsible for their care more streamlined guidance on how care should function. It brought together several different pieces of legislation in the UK and sets out several principles which all instances of care should follow in order to properly safeguard recipients of care, including:

  • Empowerment, where people are encouraged and support in making their own decisions around their care with informed consent. This gives the recipient of care more agency within their care and the final say on what happens with them.
  • Prevention, meaning that it’s better to take preemptive action rather than waiting for harm to occur. This means implementing processes which aim to minimise any potential risks.
  • Proportionality, taking the least intrusive route for delivering care scaled to the size of any relevant risks. This allows recipients of care to live their lives with minimal interference and as little intervention as possible.
  • Protection, providing support and representation for those with the greatest need to ensure any risks are minimised to the lowest level possible. This gives those with more complex care needs all the support needed to address as many of the issues they may face as possible.
  • Partnership, working alongside local authorities and organisations to encourage the prevention, detection and reporting of any abuse or neglect they come across. This includes educating any relevant individuals on safeguarding principles so they can identify the signs of abuse, neglect and harassment.
  • Accountability, delivering safeguarding with transparency and culpability if care breaks down at a specific point. This ensures that any problems can be addressed and quickly rectified in order to reestablish an appropriate level of care.

Raising safeguarding concerns

If you encounter a safeguarding incident at any point, whether that’s while providing care or when interacting with a vulnerable individual, you will need to take responsibility for the situation and provide immediate action to ensure the person in question is properly protected.

  • Carry out an initial assessment of the situation, including potential involvement of emergency services
  • Ensure the immediate safety and wellbeing of the individual while remaining calm
  • Get a sense of individual’s perspective around the safeguarding issue and follow any relevant procedure
  • Demonstrate understanding and acknowledge your concerns with them
  • Maintain the integrity of any evidence linked to the concern
  • Follow local procedures for reporting incidents/risks
  • Ensure the individual understands that you have to share the information with any relevant parties, explaining what information will be shared and why
  • Make a written statement of the individual’s account, using their words, your observations and any actions taken.

Carrying out your duty of care

When looking after vulnerable adults or elderly recipients of care, you have a duty of care to them and to your fellow carers who help shoulder the safeguarding responsibility with you. All recipients of care are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect, ensuring they feel that the care is working to support them. This includes any decisions made by the individual in question to refuse care or treatment, as emphasised in the empowerment principle. Part of your duty is to make sure they understand the risks associated with refusing care, especially if you believe there to be an immediate, severe risk. The duty of care can be said to have been reasonably met if:

  • All reasonable steps have been taken with the recipient of care
  • Thorough assessment methods have been used, with relevant information collated and evaluated
  • Any decisions made by the patient are properly recorded and escalated to any relevant parties
  • All policies and procedures have been followed
  • Senior staff can get the facts and are proactive in understanding the situation


By ensuring your care conforms to these three areas, you should be able to provide protection for vulnerable adults against harassment, abuse and neglect whilst also respecting the individual and their decisions around their own care. If you’re interested in learning more about safeguarding principles in relation to vulnerable adults, take a look at our online safeguarding courses and further your own training around preventing the abuse of both adults and children.

You can also check out our useful and informative downloadable resources, including this video on the six principles of safeguarding adults, a checklist on spotting the signs of abuse of the elderly and a guide to safeguarding adults.

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