Last updated: 26.11.18

Safeguarding adults guide: what you need to know

Safeguarding adults guidance

Safeguarding adults is a complicated area and one that needs careful consideration. It is important that every organisation working closely with adults has an awareness of safeguarding adults and what this entails.

If you are unsure whether you or your organisation is sufficiently aware, don’t despair – we’ve created this safeguarding adults guide, which highlights some important areas of safeguarding adults. We hope it will help you assess whether or not your knowledge is up to scratch.

We’re stressing the importance, because if you don’t know the elements which make up safeguarding adults – who could be at risk, what to look out for, what our roles and responsibilities are when it comes to vulnerable adults, and so on – then it can have a huge impact on any adults at risk, as well as on yourself. So, to ensure someone’s safety (as well as your own), you need to make sure you know your stuff.

What you need to know.

Below are several key questions that anyone who works with vulnerable adults should be able to answer. This guide will give you the basic information for you to start expanding your knowledge and will highlight the areas you might need to refresh your knowledge in.

How is safeguarding adults defined?

Safeguarding adults is defined in the Care Act 2014 as ‘protecting an adult’s right to live in safety and free from abuse and neglect.’ It hinges on people and organisations working successfully together to prevent vulnerable adults from risks and the experience of abuse and neglect, as well as ensuring that the adult’s wellbeing is at the forefront by showing regard to their feelings, wishes, views and beliefs.

Who would be classed as an ‘adult at risk’?

Following the Care Act’s guidance on who could be classed as an ‘adult at risk’, the following is required:

  • They must be aged 18 or over.
  • Has needs for care or support.
  • Is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect.
  • Is unable to protect themselves against abuse or neglect as a result of their needs.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, as there are other factors which can also increase people’s risk of abuse. Can you think of any?

What is the most important piece of legislation for safeguarding adults?

The Care Act 2014. It is the first piece of legislation that has laid out procedures for safeguarding adults on a statutory footing. It provides useful definitions, discusses the importance of multi-agency working and highlights the importance of working together to safeguard adults, emphasising that everyone has a responsibility to protect adults at risk of abuse.

However, it is not the only piece of relevant legislation; there are numerous others: the Mental Health Act (2007) and The Mental Capacity Act (2005) and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), to name a few.

How would you define abuse? What are the different types?

This is also outlined in the Care Act 2014. It defines abuse as:

    • A single act or a repeated act.
    • An opportunistic act or a form of serial abusing, where the perpetrator seeks out and ‘grooms’ individuals.
    • An act of neglect or a failure to act.
    • Involving more than one type of abuse.
    • Deliberate or the result of negligence or ignorance.
    • A crime.

There are numerous different types: physical, financial, neglect, organisational, domestic, psychological, sexual, discriminatory, modern slavery, and self-neglect. Would you be confident to recognise these?

What are signs of abuse?

As you can imagine, each type of abuse has its own signs but there are some general indicators to look out for as well. For example:

  • A change in the person’s behaviour or personality.
  • Bruises or marks that appear to have been made with an implement or that are located in places where such injuries do not usually appear.
  • Unexplained symptoms.

Do any others come to mind?

What is your role and what are your responsibilities?

This will vary depending on what role you play in the organisation. It may be just keeping your eyes open and reporting any concerns to a manager; or you may be required to escalate any concerns. The two areas that are always a cause for concern are knowing what appropriate action should be taken, and the complicated matter of reporting abuse.

What appropriate action should you take when concerned someone might be experiencing abuse?

This might vary from organisation to organisation. Do you have guidelines for this? Are there certain ‘do’s and don’ts’ regarding what to do in a situation that is a cause for concern? These might include following best practice guidelines such as ‘make sure to record all details’ and ‘don’t try and investigate’.

Why is it important to report abuse? 

This seems like an obvious question but reporting abuse can be a difficult thing to do and you could end up talking yourself out of it. However, it is vital that abuse is reported, as it can stop further abuse and ensure that those involved receive support. Overall, it is your professional responsibility.

What are the barriers to reporting abuse? 

When faced with the possibility of needing to report abuse, we can easily find barriers which might prevent us from doing so. Amongst other things, there is a lot of fear involved – fear of consequences, fear of not being believed or of making things worse, fear of counter allegations and fear of the possibility of having misunderstood and jumped to conclusions. Can you relate to any of these fears or feel you know how to overcome them?

For further information, check out our useful and informative downloadable resources, including this video on the six principles of safeguarding adults, and a checklist on spotting the signs of abuse of the elderly.

We hope that this has provided some food for thought and that you get a sense of the complexity of the area of safeguarding adults. If you want to learn more about the subject or would like to discuss how we could help you in this area, please get in touch with us at