Protecting adults at risk in London: Good practice resource

Seeing and speaking to the adult at risk

It is often very difficult for someone to talk about experiences of abuse, mistreatment or neglect they have had or may be having. The person may feel that they will not be believed, they may fear reprisals, they may feel they are in some way responsible for what is happening to them, and they may feel ashamed. It could well have taken some time for them to find the courage to talk to anyone, so it is important that they know they are supported in giving their account and that they are confident they are being heard and not judged.

When taking a disclosure the aim is to enable the person to give an accurate account of what has happened or is happening to them, and what impact the experience is having on them. The person should receive reassurance that action will be taken to reduce the risk and make them safe.

The person’s account of what has happened will provide important evidence if the abuse is a crime and there is a criminal prosecution, so it is important to use the person’s own language and record them accurately wherever possible. Guidance for formal interviews is contained in Achieving best evidence in criminal proceedings (16). This document states that any initial questioning should only be to elicit a brief account of what is alleged to have taken place. The purpose is to obtain information that will assist the early investigation, establish whether a crime has been committed, assess the risk and enable appropriate initial action to be taken.

Any views expressed by the person on what they wish to happen, in terms of future investigations, should be noted, even if the person may lack full capacity to make decisions relating to their own safety.

When listening and responding to a disclosure, remember some important communication points:

Disclosures from certain people will require specific communication considerations.

Whoever you are speaking and listening to, however, certain things are vital: