Key definitions

Guidance for local authority social care staff

The Care Act 2014

The Care Act 2014 modernises the law so that people’s wellbeing is at the heart of the care and support system. It will be supported by statutory and practice guidance. Duties under the Act come into effect in April 2015.

Changes in the Act that are relevant to safeguarding are set out in a Department of Health Factsheet.

The modernisation of care legislation will in time change practice, attitudes and terminology. This guide includes terminology currently used by the various sectors involved in safeguarding adults, so that people can find and understand the information they need. Following the implementation of the Care Act, we will update the guide to reflect new and shared language.

Vulnerable adult/adult at risk/person with care and support needs

The use of the term ‘vulnerable’ is not popular as it may suggest that all people with care and support needs are vulnerable and attaches vulnerability to people rather than looking at the risks that face them. To rectify this, SCIE and others have used the term ‘adult at risk’. The definition of an adult at risk is not clearly or consistently agreed upon across sectors and terminology in the law is changing, in particular as a result of the Care Act. Local discussion and agreement is currently essential if frontline staff are to understand the various definitions.

The Care Act refers to ‘people with care and support needs’ and we have used this term throughout this resource. All staff that come into contact with people with care and support needs who may be vulnerable to abuse and neglect should understand that safeguarding procedures apply to this group. ‘The level of needs is not relevant, and the adult does not need to have eligible needs for care and support, or be receiving any particular service from the local authority, in order for the safeguarding duties to apply.’ [43]

Abuse is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons. Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts. It may be physical, verbal or psychological, it may be an act of neglect or an omission to act, or it may occur when a person with care and support needs is persuaded to enter into a financial or sexual transaction to which he or she has not consented, or cannot consent. Abuse can occur in any relationship and may result in significant harm to, or exploitation of, the person subjected to it. [2]

Adult safeguarding is the process of protecting adults with care and support needs from abuse or neglect. [4] This may include empowering and enabling people to protect themselves.

Domestic abuse. The cross-government definition [7] of domestic violence and abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

Mate crime is when people are befriended or groomed for exploitation and abuse.

Multi-agency safeguarding policy and procedures are developed by local authorities to set out local arrangements for safeguarding people with care and support needs. Key agencies including the local authority, health, care providers, housing and the police are expected to follow the procedures.

Safeguarding Adults Reviews (formerly serious case reviews)

Safeguarding Adults Boards (SABs) must arrange a Safeguarding Adults Review (SAR) when an adult in its area dies as a result of abuse or neglect, whether known or suspected, and there is concern that partner agencies could have worked more effectively to protect the adult. SABs must also arrange a SAR if the same circumstances apply where an adult is still alive but has experienced serious neglect or abuse. [43]