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What is abuse or neglect?

Abuse is when a person is treated in a way that harms, hurts, exploits them or makes them feel frightened or unhappy. People of any age and gender can be vulnerable to the risk of abuse.

Abuse is not always intentional and can even occur if someone is stressed and trying to do their best. It can also happen if someone does not know how to do something because of a lack of knowledge, training or understanding.

Abuse can take place in many forms:

  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Domestic violence
  • Psychological or emotional
  • Financial or material
  • Neglect or omission
  • Discriminatory
  • Organisational
  • Self-neglect
  • Hate crime
  • Modern slavery

Who can commit abuse?

Anyone can abuse someone. This could be a stranger or someone that a person knows. It may also be one person or a group of people.

Where does abuse happen?

Abuse can happen anywhere. This could be in someone's home, at a day centre, at a place of work or college. It can also happen in a hospital, at a residential or nursing home or at a local social club.

When should I report abuse?

  • you are concerned that someone is being hurt, frightened or intimidated and is not getting the help or care they need.
  • you feel that someone is being taken advantage of because of their age, disability or illness
  • someone is being made to do something against their will
  • someone is not being treated in a dignified or respectful manner

How to report a concern

For less urgent concerns, please complete the Safeguarding Concern form. However, if you feel the person is in immediate danger, please dial 999.

You can also call the Safeguarding Adults team between 9am to 5:30pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 5pm on Friday on 0800 137 915. Outside these hours you can call our Emergency Duty team on 0800 999 7677.

Help if you are living in fear of your partner or family member

Some adults who experience domestic abuse may not be "vulnerable" in terms of requiring adult social care support.

If a person is being abused by a family member, they may need specialist support.

No matter where someone is, they shouldn't suffer abuse. If you or someone you know is being abused, there are people you can talk to about it.

Further information

For more information about safeguarding, please see our factsheets ‘What is abuse and neglect?’ and ‘What is adult safeguarding?’ on our Factsheets page.