Adult Social Care - Keeping Adults Safe

Abuse - The Facts

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:

Physical includes hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, restraint or inappropriate sanctions.

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

Psychological includes 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 includes 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 includes 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.

Discriminatory includes 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 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 affect the whole of that service.

Exploitation either opportunistically or premeditated, unfairly manipulating someone for profit or personal gain.

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.

An abuser is often well known to the person being abused and could be:

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

Signs of abuse to look for:

  • Multiple bruising or finger marks.
  • 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.  

Abuse can occur anywhere:

  • In someone’s own home.
  • In a carers home.
  • In a day centre.
  • In a residential or nursing home.
  • In  a hospital.
  • In a public place.

Abuse worries

It is not easy sometimes to accept that you are being abused, and it can be even more difficult to tell someone else.  Sometimes this is because the person who is doing it is a close family member or a friend, and sometimes it is because you think people will laugh at you or it will affect how your community or friends think about you.  It is often for these sorts of reasons that abuse goes unchallenged.

A number of key points to remember are these:

  • If someone receives care or support from Health Services or what we call structured care services (i.e. from a residential home or a domiciliary care agency) there are regulatory bodies established in law that can be expected to take action.  This is true, even if you pay totally for your care.
  • If you live in your home and do not receive care from a structured care service (whether you receive no care whatsoever or receive care through personalised services (e.g. Direct Payments) you are still entitled to protection through the safeguarding adults’ process.

If you would like more information about domestic violence/abuse and/or sexual violence please visit our domestic abuse section on