What is safeguarding?
It is important to be clear about who the formal safeguarding process applies to.
In this section we will define adult safeguarding. See our safeguarding children resource for information in that area.
The Care Act statutory guidance defines adult safeguarding as:
Protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. It is about people and organisations working together to prevent and stop both the risks and experience of abuse or neglect, while at the same time making sure that the adult’s wellbeing is promoted including, where appropriate, having regard to their views, wishes, feelings and beliefs in deciding on any action. This must recognise that adults sometimes have complex interpersonal relationships and may be ambivalent, unclear or unrealistic about their personal circumstances.
This definition hints at the challenges of safeguarding, but it is important to be clear about which adults we are discussing. A local authority must act when it has ‘reasonable cause to suspect that an adult in its area (whether or not ordinarily resident there):
- has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs),
- is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect, and
- as a result of those needs is unable to protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect or the risk of it.’ (Care Act 2014, section 42)
So safeguarding is for people who, because of issues such as dementia, learning disability, mental ill-health or substance abuse, have care and support needs that may make them more vulnerable to abuse or neglect.
Who is at a higher risk?
- People with care and support needs, such as older people or people with disabilities, are more likely to be abused or neglected. They may be seen as an easy target and may be less likely to identify abuse themselves or to report it.
- People with communication difficulties can be particularly at risk because they may not be able to alert others.
Sometimes people may not even be aware that they are being abused, and this is especially likely if they have a cognitive impairment. Abusers may try to prevent access to the person they abuse.