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 Safeguarding adults

These pages tell you what to do and who to contact if you or someone you know is vulnerable and being abused.

Who is an adult at risk?

An adult at risk is a person aged 18 years or over who may be unable to take care of themselves, or protect themselves from harm or from being exploited. This may be because they have a mental health problem, a disability, a sensory impairment, are old and frail, or have some form of illness.

Mental Capacity

Mental Capacity refers to the ability to make decisions for yourself about your own life. Some people have difficulties in making such decisions. This is called 'lacking capacity'.

Under the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) there are laws governing who can make decisions on someone else's behalf, which help to safeguard vulnerable people. To find out more please visit the Mental Capacity Act page.

What do we mean by abuse?

Abuse is a violation of a person's human rights or dignity by someone else. There are many kinds of abuse; some are listed below:


Including hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, restraint or inappropriate sanctions.


Including rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the vulnerable adult has not consented, could not consent or was pressured into consenting.


Including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.

Financial or material

Including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

Neglect or acts of omission

Including ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health care, social care, education services or misuse of medication, adequate nutrition or heating.


Including racist, sexist behaviour and harassment based on a person's ethnicity, race, culture, sexual orientation, age or disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.

Institutional abuse

This can sometimes happen in residential homes, nursing homes or hospitals when people are mistreated because of poor or inadequate care, neglect and poor practice that affects the whole of that service.

Any of these forms of abuse can be either deliberate or be the result of ignorance, or lack of training, knowledge or understanding. Often if a person is being abused in one way they are also being abused in other ways.

Who may be an abuser?

The person who is responsible for the abuse is often well known to the person abused and could be -

  • Relatives and family members
  • Professional staff
  • Paid care workers
  • Volunteers
  • Other service users
  • Neighbours
  • Friends and associates, and
  • Strangers

What are the signs?

Some of the signs to look for are -

  • multiple bruising or fingermarks
  • injuries the person cannot give a good reason for
  • deterioration of health for no apparent reason
  • loss of weight
  • inappropriate or inadequate clothing
  • withdrawal or mood changes
  • a carer who is unwilling to allow access to the person
  • an individual who is unwilling to be alone with a particular carer
  • unexplained shortage of money

Who should you contact if you are worried?

In an emergency, please call 999.

If you are being abused or you suspect that someone you know may be the victim of abuse but it is not an emergency you should tell someone you trust, such as a family member, support worker, social worker, nurse or police officer.

You can contact the Safeguarding Adults Team directly to report concerns of abuse or neglect of an 'adults at risk' in Hackney, or the Adult Social Care Team if the concerns are about someoone in the City of London.

Safeguarding Adults Team (Hackney)
Hackney Service Centre
1 Hillman Street
E8 1DY
Tel: 0208 356 5782
Fax: 0208 356 5043
Secure Email:

Adults Social Care Team (City of London)
North Wing
PO Box 270
Tel: 0207 332 1224
Fax: 0207 332 3434
Textphone: 0207 3321574

What happens after your contact?

You will be told which social care or health team will be looking into your concerns. The social care or health care staff will find out as much as possible about what has happened and will contact you.. A manager in the relevant health and social care team will decide whether investigation and protection are needed under London's adult safeguarding procedures.  

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Page updated: 24 Feb 2015