Keeping vulnerable adults safe from abuse

Keeping vulnerable adults safe from abuse

Everyone has the right to live a life free of abuse and neglect. 

What is abuse?

Abuse is a very broad term that can take different forms and can occur in different environments and circumstances. 

  • Domestic abuse – includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse within a relationship or family
  • Sexual abuse - including rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment
  • Self-neglect –neglecting to care for personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding. 
  • Discriminatory abuse – harassment or slurs because of race, gender/gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion. 
  • Organisational abuse – neglect and poor practice within a care setting such as a hospital or care home, or in relation to care in a person's home. 
  • Physical abuse – involves assault, slapping, hitting, pushing etc. 
  • Psychological abuse – includes emotional abuse, intimidation or control etc.
  • Financial or material abuse – includes theft, coercion in relation to an adult’s financial affairs, scams, misappropriation of property etc.

Abuse can happen anywhere – in a residential/nursing home, hospital, workplace, day centre, in a person's home or in the street. The person abusing could be a family member, friend, neighbour, volunteer, carer or a professional. 

If you or the person you care for are experiencing or are at risk of abuse you should:

  • in an emergency ring the Police on tel: 999  
  • in a non emergency ring the Police on tel: 101 
  • contact Derbyshire County Council on tel: 01629 533190 if the person being abused is a child or a vulnerable adult. If it's out-of-hours and you need to speak to someone urgently contact tel: 01629 532600
  • If the abuse is being carried out by a professional/paid worker please see the 'abuse by care providers' section below. 

There are also local and national organisations who can offer support and advice. These are listed on the Derbyshire County Council website.

Abuse and carers

In some cases carers are abused by the person they care for. If this is happening to you it's important that you seek help before things get any worse.  If you urgently need help, use the numbers listed above.

Alternatively you could use a telephone helpline to get independent advice, such as the Samaritans on tel: 116 123

On the other hand, as a carer you may be at risk of unintentionally abusing the person you care for due to reaching crisis point though tiredness or stress. If you are struggling and need help you can contact Adult Care using the numbers above. You may be able to access support to make your caring role easier to manage.


Under the Care Act 2014, Derbyshire County Council (and all other local authorities in the UK who provide social care) has a responsibility to make enquiries into a situation where abuse of a vulnerable adult is suspected, and determine whether any action needs to be taken.  This is called safeguarding and is carried out in conjunction with the police, health and other partners.

Safeguarding duties apply to any adult who: 

  • Has care and support needs (whether or not Derbyshire County Council is meeting any of those needs) AND 
  • is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect AND 
  • As a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of, the experience of abuse or neglect.

An adult could be vulnerable to abuse because they have disability, illness or condition, are frail because of their age or have mental ill health.  You can find out more about safeguarding on the Derbyshire Safeguarding Adults Board website or by reading the 'Keeping Adults Safe' leaflet. You can order a paper copy of the leaflet using the Adult Care leaflet order form.

Spotting if the person you care for is suffering abuse - advice for carers

If you don't live with the person you help to care for, it's not always easy to tell if they are being abused. It's important to know the signs of abuse so you can take action to stop it from happening. Behavioural signs of abuse in an person include them:

  • becoming quiet and withdrawn 
  • being aggressive or angry for no obvious reason 
  • looking unkempt, dirty or thinner than usual 
  • sudden changes in their normal character, such as appearing helpless, depressed or tearful
  • physical signs of abuse, such as bruises, wounds, fractures and other untreated injuries 

Other signs to watch out for include a sudden change in their finances, not having as much money as usual to pay for shopping or regular outings, or getting into debt. Or you may notice that their home lacks heat, is unusually dirty or untidy, or you might notice things missing. These signs could mean the person is being financially abused.

What to do if you think the person you care for is being abused

If you feel someone you know is showing signs of abuse, talk to them to see if there's anything you can do to help. However, they may not want to talk about it because they're afraid of making the situation worse. Don't ignore your concerns, though. That could allow any abuse to carry on or escalate.

Don't promise the person you won't tell anyone what you've heard. If a vulnerable adult is being abused or neglected, it's important to find help for them and stop the harm. 

If the person tells you that they have been abused or neglected, ask them what they'd like you to do. Let them know who can help them. Offer to seek some help on their behalf if they are worried or if it's difficult for them to do so themselves.

Report the abuse to the appropriate place using the contacts on this page (below). There are also local and national organisations who can offer advice about keeping safe - many are listed on the Derbyshire County Council website

Abuse by care providers

If you think the person you care for is being abused, or has been abused, by a paid carer or professional you should report the abuse to:

  • the Police on tel: 101 or, if it's an emergency, tel: 999
  • Derbyshire County Council on tel: 01629 533190 
  • the manager of the care or health service provider.

It could be a one-off incident of abuse or ongoing ill treatment but you should still report it to stop it happening again.

If appropriate, Derbyshire County Council Adult Care will start a safeguarding investigation.  

The ‘Keeping Adults Safe’ leaflet has further information about what Derbyshire County Council will do and what will happen if you report organisational abuse. The important thing to note is that the Council will make sure that the person you care for continues to receive the same level of care and is kept safe while the investigation is going on.

The Council will work with you, the person you care for and any other agencies or people involved, to draw up a joint plan that will keep the person safe as possible in the future.  

If the person you care for lives outside Derbyshire, their local authority will have similar procedures. 

You may also be interested in advice on making a complaint

Have your say on safeguarding processes

The Derbyshire Safeguarding Adults Board is a multi-agency forum to provide joint strategic leadership in preventing, detecting and safeguarding adults from abuse in Derbyshire. The Board is made up of Derbyshire County Council Adult Care, Derbyshire Constabularly, NHS (both services and commissioners), Derbyshire Fire and Rescue and other partners who work with vulnerable adults. 

The board are keen to get the views of people who've been involved in safeguarding procedures to see where and how they can improve their services. This includes collecting the views of carers who've experienced having a loved one the focus of a safeguarding investigation. 

If you'd like to share your views (good or bad) about safeguarding procedures and processes in Derbyshire, please email:

General safety

Safer Derbyshire is a partnership of organisations in Derbyshire who provide services to help keep people safe. The partners include Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Police, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue, district and borough councils, health commissioners and voluntary sector organisations.  

The partners provide safety information including:

You can refer yourself for advice about scams, rogue traders, home security and fire safety using the First Contact Signposting Scheme. 

Other helpful websites

This information was last updated on 30/06/2022

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