Protecting adults at risk in London: Good practice resource

Investigating adult abuse: Neglect and acts of omission - issues to consider

Neglect or acts of omission amount to a failure to meet the adult at risk’s basic physical, medical and/or psychological needs which may result in serious impairment of the person’s health and wellbeing. They include failure to provide access to health care or the necessities of life such as adequate nutrition and hydration.

Section 44 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 created offences of ill-treatment and willful neglect in the case of people lacking capacity. These offences already existed in relation to people with a mental disorder under Section 127 of the Mental Health Act 1983. These offences, under either Act, can be committed by anyone responsible for a person’s care. However, it should be noted that the offences apply only to people who lack capacity or to people with a mental disorder; there are no such offences in relation to other adults at risk.

In suspected cases of neglect, it is important to make a holistic assessment of the situation, taking into account the views of the person and their carers, where applicable, on the reasons behind the neglect. As well as looking at Section 44 of the Mental Capacity Act, it is useful to consider the key principles of it, including the importance of responding in the least restrictive way to a situation.