Abuse of vulnerable adults
Who is a vulnerable adult?
A ‘vulnerable adult’ was defined by the Department of Health ('No Secrets' 2000) as a person aged 18 years or over "who is, or may be, in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation."
Some adults may be more risk of abuse than others. The following circumstances could increase the risk of abuse:
- Physical disability
- Learning disability
- Sight or hearing loss
- Severe illness
- Mental health problems
- Old age and fragility
- Dementia or confusion
What constitutes abuse?
Abuse is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons. Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts, or to more than one person at a time. Abuse can occur in any relationship and may result in significant harm to, or exploitation of, the person subjected to it.
physical abuse: being hit or slapped, being locked in or force fed
sexual abuse: being touched or kissed when it is not wanted, being made to touch or kiss someone else, being raped, being made to listen to sexual comments of forced to look at sexual acts, or materials
psychological abuse: being threatened, not being given choices, being bullied or isolated from other people;
financial or material abuse: having money or property stolen, being pressured into giving people money or changing a will, misuse of benefits, not being allowed access to their own money;
neglect: ignoring medical or physical care needs, withholding food or drink, not allowing access to appropriate health or social services, being left in dirty or wet clothing;
discriminatory abuse: ignoring spiritual or religious beliefs, comments or jokes about a person’s disability, age, race, sexual orientation, or gender/gender identity, ignoring cultural needs for example diet or clothing;
institutional abuse: lack of individual care, no flexibility of bedtimes or waking, deprived environment and lack of stimulation.
Some instances of abuse are criminal offences.
In what circumstances does abuse occur?
Abuse can take place in any context. It may occur when a vulnerable adult lives alone or with a relative; it may also occur within nursing, residential or day care settings, in hospitals, custodial situations, support services into people’s own homes, and other places previously assumed safe, or in public places.
Where to get help
If you have concerns that someone may be being abused, or at risk of abuse, it is important that take action and contact your relevant local authority adult services listed below:
Select the link here for Devon or phone 0845 155 1007
Select the link here for Torbay or phone 01803 219700
Select the link here for Plymouth or phone 01752 668000
Select the link here for Cornwall or phone 0300 1234 131 ion 2