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Practitioners who work with adults

Here we will provide information and signposting about the key safeguarding issues you may come across when working or volunteering with adults and their families.


Welcome to the part of our website aimed at supporting everyone who works or volunteers with adults and their families. Everyone has the right to live their lives free from abuse. It is recognised that certain groups of people may be more likely to experience abuse and less able to access services or support to keep themselves safe.  


Anyone can witness, or become aware of, information that suggests abuse is occurring. It is important that we all understand what to do, and where to get help and advice. It is vital that we all remain vigilant on behalf of those unable to protect themselves. This will include:

  • knowing about different types of abuse and neglect and their signs
  • supporting adults to keep them safe
  • knowing who to tell about suspected abuse or neglect
  • supporting adults to think and weigh up the risks and benefits of different options when exercising choice and control.

If you are a practitioner and you become aware of adult abuse you should report your concern.

These videos are designed to help us all think about adult safeguarding issues. Throughout our lives we can become vulnerable and at risk. These videos explore issues such as drug abuse, online fraud, mental health, care for the elderly, and neglect. They are also designed to help us reflect on how people can be best supported, for example by addressing the needs of the carer, or by ‘making safeguarding personal’. Visit the Real Safeguarding Stories website at

If an adult who has learning difficulties or a condition such as Alzheimer’s goes missing you should always call the police in the first instance, even if you think you know where they are. Every minute that they are missing increases the chances of them being harmed and the police will always prioritise this. Read more about how to prepare in our Herbert Protocol resource. If an adult is missing you can inform the police and there is also a specialist national service Missing People to help you, telephone 0800 700 740 or visit their website at

Adults can be at risk of harm from those who work with them in any setting; it could be a member of staff, a carer, volunteer or professional. If someone raises concerns about a person working with a vulnerable adult you must take the allegation seriously and treat it in line with the agreed procedures of your organisation. The Safeguarding Adults Multi-Agency Policy and Procedures for West and North Yorkshire and York provide the framework for safeguarding adults with care and support needs from abuse and neglect. For more details visit our Safeguarding Adults Policy and Procedures Page.

Safeguarding duties apply to an adult who:

  • is 18 and over
  • has needs for care and support (whether or not the local authority is meeting any of those needs)
  • is experiencing, or at risk of harm of, abuse or neglect and as a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of harm of, or experience of abuse or neglect.

This may be a person who:

  • is elderly and frail due to ill health, physical disability or cognitive impairment
  • has a learning disability and or a sensory impairment
  • has mental health needs including dementia or a personality disorder
  • has a long term illness/condition
  • misuses substances or alcohol.

There are many factors that could increase the risk of abuse. Everyone is a potential victim of crime or abuse but the following conditions can increase that vulnerability:

  • a learning disability
  • mental health issues
  • a physical or sensory impairment
  • is frail or an older person.

Abuse of adults does not have to be deliberate, malicious or planned. It can happen when people are trying to do their best but do not know the right thing to do; or the person who causes harm does so because of frustration  in the caring context. Irrespective of why the abuse might happen, any abuse is harmful which makes it vitally important to ensure that those involved with the care and well being of others have a clear sense of what signifies abuse and what must happen should abuse be suspected or discovered. For more information see our what is adult abuse? resource.

The Care Act 2014 does not give a specific definition but says professionals should not limit their view of what constitutes abuse or neglect – it can take many forms and the circumstances of the individual case should always be considered. For more information see our what is adult abuse? resource. There is additional legal protection for such people under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 – for further information see our mental capacity resource.

Abuse can occur anywhere and is not confined to any one setting. Just because there are no records of abuse having occurred does not mean it has not happened or is not happening now. It is important to remain alert for the signs at all times; for example abuse can occur:

  • in nursing, residential or day care setting
  • in a persons’ own home
  • in another place previously assumed safe, for example prison
  • in a hospital or public place
  • in education, training or a work place setting.