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Protection from abuse

Regardless of our age, we should be able to live safely. Sometimes though you may feel at risk, or be concerned about another person. If this happens there are people you can speak to and there is help available. 


What is safeguarding?

Adults with care and support needs (for example, a disability, health condition, mental illness or learning disability) can be at increased risk of abuse and neglect, and less able to protect themselves from harm.

Safeguarding is the protection of the rights of those at risk. The Care Act 2014 sets out clear duties for local councils to protect these rights by preventing or stopping abuse and neglect of adults with care and support needs.


What is abuse and neglect?

Every adult should be able to live safely, free from abuse and neglect. Most adults are able to do this, but research indicates that almost half a million people aged over 65 will experience some form of abuse or neglect.

Incidents of abuse and neglect may be one-off or multiple, and affect one person or more. You can also be affected by more than one type of abuse at the same time.

Click on the titles below to find out more about each form of abuse and neglect. 

Domestic abuse

Many of the types of abuse listed here (physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse) will also be domestic abuse if they are perpetrated by someone you're connected to, such as:

  • your current or ex-partner
  • your adult child
  • your adult grandchild
  • another family member.

People often think domestic abuse only affects younger people, but any person of any age and any gender can experience domestic abuse.

See our domestic abuse page to find out more, including where to get support

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Physical abuse

This can include:

  • any form of physical harm
  • the misuse of medication
  • inappropriate use of restraint
  • things such as intentionally keeping a walking aid out of reach.

It doesn’t have to be repeated, any single act of physical abuse is serious.

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Psychological abuse

This can include:

  • threats of harm to you or others
  • controlling behaviour
  • intimidation
  • coercion
  • verbal abuse  
  • isolating you from friends or loved ones.

This type of abuse can be very subtle and tricky to identify – it may be that you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. It can even be experienced alongside overwhelming feelings of love and happiness.

Often it’s a case of one person manipulating another to feel confused and a sense that they are to blame for the abuse they are experiencing.

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Financial abuse

This can include:

  • theft
  • fraud
  • exploiting your financial affairs
  • restricting your access to money, employment or possessions
  • pressurising and coercing you about your will, lasting power of attorney, property and inheritance.

See our financial abuse page to find out more, including where to get support

Anyone can commit financial abuse – it can be a relative, a partner, or a scammer. Financial scams are getting more sophisticated.

Find out more about scams

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Verbal abuse

This can include:

  • humiliating you in front of others
  • name-calling
  • shouting at you
  • repeatedly putting you down.

This type of abuse can also be subtle. The person may say they're joking or tell you that you're being too sensitive. Others may laugh along or look uncomfortable at their behaviour, but it often goes unchallenged. 

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Neglect

This can include:

  • wilfully ignoring your medical or physical care needs
  • failing to provide you with access to appropriate health or social care.

Common examples of neglect are limiting your access to food, drink, medication or heating, restricting support with personal care, and not supporting you to attend medical appointments.

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Self-neglect

This can include a wide range of activities such as hoarding or neglecting personal care which may impact on your own health or others.

Self-neglect must be considered alongside the Mental Capacity Act. We have the right to make what others may see as unwise decisions, even when they may impact on our long term well-being. 

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Sexual abuse

This can include:

  • sexual assault
  • rape
  • sexual harassment
  • pressurising you to perform or take part in sexual acts you don't consent to. This can also include non-contact sexual acts such as indecent exposure, online abuse and non-consensual pornographic activities.

No matter when sexual abuse occurs, even if it was years ago, it still matters and there is specific support available through the government's It Still Matters campaign

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Discriminatory abuse

If you experience any of the behaviours we've described or you're treated unfairly or unequally based on your protected characteristics, this would be discriminatory abuse. Your protected characteristics are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion and belief
  • sex or sexual orientation.

For example, your religious or cultural needs may be neglected, such as the need to pray at certain times or the requirement for halal meat. 

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Organisational abuse

This can include an incident or pattern of incidents involving ongoing ill-treatment within an organisation. This could involve neglect, acts of omission or poor practice as a result of inadequate structures, policies and practice.

An organisation could be:

  • a care home
  • a hospital
  • a day service
  • a service delivering care to your home.

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Modern slavery

This can include slavery, human trafficking and domestic servitude. This can appear in different forms, such as:

  • forced prostitution
  • forced begging
  • forced criminal behaviour
  • forced work
  • forced marriage
  • forced organ donation.

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What can I do if I feel unsafe or if I’m worried about someone else?

The best way to protect yourself or a loved one and stop abuse from happening is to tell someone about it. This may feel difficult, especially if the person abusing you is a close friend or relative, but abuse and neglect are never acceptable. You don’t have to put up with it, and there is help available for you.

If you're unsure who to contact you can:

  • Call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 678 1602
  • Call Hourglass on 0808 808 8141 or visit their website 

If you're worried about someone that has care and support needs (for example, they need help due to an illness or disability), you should contact the Social Care team of your local council. Find your local council


What will happen when I report abuse?

When you report abuse to Adult Social Care at your local council, they will listen to the information you give them and assess what action is required. They will ensure that you feel in control of what happens.

You can ask for someone that you trust to support you, or you can ask for an advocate. If you (or the person you are concerned about) has difficulties, or does not have the mental capacity to engage with the process, the local council will arrange for an advocate to provide support.

If you’re at risk of further abuse, the Adult Social Services team will work with you to plan how you stay safe. You must be fully involved at every stage of this process.

We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 125 local Age UKs.

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Last updated: May 24 2022

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