What you should know about Safeguarding Adults

Safeguarding adults is about protecting those at risk of harm. It involves identifying abuse and acting whenever someone is being harmed. The Department of Health defines a vulnerable adult 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. Safeguarding is everybody’s business.

An adult at risk is an adult who:
•needs care and support, whether or not the council provides it
•is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect
•can’t protect themselves from abuse or neglect because of their care and support needs

The Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board (BSAB) is a statutory partnership of all the organisations working to safeguard adults at risk in the city. Their policies help people to report, investigate and stop abuse, supported by Adult Care Team Managers.

Abuse and neglect


Abuse is when anyone violates someone else’s human and civil rights. Abuse doesn’t have to be done on purpose; the most important thing is whether the adult at risk has been harmed. Adult abuse is defined as a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate actions, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to a vulnerable person.

Abuse can be:

• physical: any form of assault, over-medication, unnecessary restraint or bad manual handling
• sexual: rape or any sexual act that the victim didn’t consent to or couldn’t understand
• psychological or emotional: threats, intimidation, coercion, harassment or bullying
• financial: theft, borrowing money and not repaying it, and any pressure about wills, property, possessions or benefits
• neglect: ignoring medical or physical needs, not providing access to care, withholding essentials such as medication, food, water and heating
• discriminatory: all forms of harassment based on a disability, ethnicity, gender or sexuality
• institutional: repeated poor care and treatment of vulnerable adults, and unsatisfactory professional practice
• modern slavery: slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude
• self-neglect: not caring for personal hygiene, health or surroundings, including behaviour like hoarding which puts the person, or others, at risk

Abuse can happen in many places:

• at home
• in sheltered housing
• in supported living settings
• at day centres and other day services
• in care homes
• in hospitals
• wherever anyone depends on care from other people

If you are concerned that you or someone you know is at risk of abuse or neglect, visit our Report a concern page for more information.

Our Partners:

Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board
Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board
Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board
Avon & Somerset Police