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Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults


“Your advice and clarity were invaluable in what was a very complex matter. The result has given both my mother and myself peace of mind.”
‘Amy’, Safeguarding Client 

What is Safeguarding?

Safeguarding is about protecting an adult’s right to live safely, free from abuse and neglect and to promote their well-being. In circumstances where an adult is unable to protect themselves, because they have care and support needs, the Care Act places certain duties on Social Services to take steps to protect that adult.

Where Social Services have reasonable belief that an adult may be experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect, the Care Act 2014 requires it to:

  • Make enquiries i.e. carry out an investigation;
  • Establish whether any actions need to be taken to prevent or stop the abuse or neglect, and by whom; and
  • Where appropriate, arrange for an independent advocate to represent and support the adult

Safeguarding will often – but not always – involve an adult who lacks the mental capacity to make decisions about their care and support, and/or finances for themselves. In these instances, Social Services will become involved to ensure that any decisions that need to be made are taken appropriately and in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and that the adult is safeguarded.

However, adults with capacity or fluctuating mental capacity may also need the protection of safeguarding and Social Services still have a responsibility to take action under their safeguarding duties. However, Social Services can sometimes be more reluctant to investigate in circumstances where they perceive that a person “should” be able to make decisions for themselves. It may therefore be necessary to apply pressure on Social Services to play a more proactive and/or more timely role where an adult is potentially being exploited or manipulated in circumstances where there  are questions about  their ability to make decisions for themselves  or where social services perceive that the cause is a family dispute.

It may be useful to refer to our list of Abbreviations Used in Community Care Law and Abbreviations Used in SEN and Disability Law.

What amounts to “abuse or neglect”?

The Care Act 2014 Statutory Guidance defines “abuse and neglect” as:

  • Physical abuse i.e. assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, unlawful restraint, and inappropriate physical sanctions
  • Sexual abuse i.e. any form of sexual assault or harassment
  • Psychological abuse i.e. threats of harm or abandonment, preventing contact with others, isolation, bullying, harassment, humiliation, intimidation, control, coercion, verbal abuse
  • Domestic violence, including psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse
  • Financial abuse i.e. theft, fraud, internet scams, the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits
  • Modern slavery i.e. slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude
  • Discrimination i.e. harassment, ill-treatment due to race, sex, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion
  • Organisational i.e. neglect, poor-practice within a care setting, institution,or the adult’s own home

If you suspect that an adult that you know with care and support needs is being subjected to any of the above, then you should notify your Local Authority’s Safeguarding Team who should then take steps to look into the matter.

Who might need information and advice?

Our Community Care Team advise:

  • Family members
  • Carers
  • Service users
  • Friends and neighbours of the adult with care and support needs

What type of enquiries can we help with?

We can advise and help if:

  • You are a relative or carer who has been told by Social Services that they have reason to believe that there has been neglect, harm or abuse to an adult in your care and that a safeguarding investigation has been commenced;
  • You represent, or are, the individual who is being abused or exploited; or
  • You are a relative, carer or friend who is worried about what another person is doing or not doing to an adult with care and support needs

If you need help with a safeguarding investigation or need assistance with taking steps to protect a potentially vulnerable adult, contact our team of Community Care lawyers today on 01273 609911, or email

Martin Searle Solicitors, 9 Marlborough Place, Brighton, BN1 1UB
T: 01273 609 991

Martin Searle Solicitors is the trading name of ms solicitors ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and is registered in England under company number 05067303.

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