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Health and Wellbeing
A Health and Well-being Wales Partner

Some adults do not have the basic skills to be able to take care of themselves and stay safe – and this can make them more vulnerable to abuse.

It is their vulnerability – and sometimes the lack of mental capacity – that makes these adults more susceptible to different types of abuse, as well as neglect.

Who is considered to be an adult at risk of abuse?

An adult at risk of abuse is likely to be receiving support from social care and/or health services and may be living in residential or supported accommodation.

The person may have learning or physical disabilities or mental health issues. Or they may be at risk of abuse because of their age, frailty or illness.

A person’s vulnerability and risk of being abused also depends upon their circumstances.

How are these people abused?

Vulnerable adults may be at particular risk of certain kinds of abuse, including:

  • sexual abuse, including prostitution and incest
  • incitement or encouragement to commit a crime, e.g. theft or violence
  • neglect (frequently leading to self-neglect)
  • bullying
  • hate crime

It is not unusual for a vulnerable person to be abused in more than one way.

For example, a vulnerable adult may be persuaded to enter into a sexual relationship which they did not, or could not have, consented and the relationship could become violent.

Abuse in a residential setting

Occasionally, those who are vulnerable are abused by the very people who are paid to keep them safe.

Sometimes there is a culture of poor care standards, which individual staff do not challenge.

It’s important to raise any concerns you have with your council’s Local Safeguarding Team.

Abuse of one adult at risk by another

This form of abuse is more likely to be physical or sexual and may take place in day care and institutional settings. Although the abuser may not fully understand their actions, steps should be taken to prevent this kind of abuse from continuing.

Safeguarding adults at risk from abuse

If you suspect someone is being abused – or you think you are being abused – you must tell someone immediately.

Contact your council’s Local Safeguarding Team. In an emergency, call 999.

Last updated: 27/02/2023