What is abuse or neglect?

This section provides information from the Department of Health Care and Support Statutory guidance (March 2016) about the different types and patterns of abuse and neglect and the different circumstances in which they may take place. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but an illustrative guide as to the sort of behaviour which could give rise to a safeguarding concern.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse includes:

  • assault
  • hitting
  • slapping
  • pushing
  • misuse of medication
  • restraint
  • inappropriate physical sanctions

Domestic violence

Domestic violence includes:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional abuse
  • so called ‘honour’ based violence

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse includes:

  • rape
  • indecent exposure
  • sexual harassment
  • inappropriate looking or touching
  • sexual teasing or innuendo
  • sexual photography
  • subjection to pornography or witnessing sexual acts
  • indecent exposure
  • sexual assault
  • sexual acts to which the adult has not consented or was pressured into consenting

Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse includes:

  • emotional abuse
  • threats of harm or abandonment
  • deprivation of contact
  • humiliation
  • blaming
  • controlling
  • intimidation
  • coercion
  • harassment
  • verbal abuse
  • cyber bullying
  • isolation
  • unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or supportive networks

Financial or material abuse

Financial or material abuse includes:

  • theft
  • fraud
  • internet scamming
  • coercion in relation to an adult’s financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions
  • the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits

Modern slavery

Modern slavery encompasses:

  • slavery
  • human trafficking
  • forced labour and domestic servitude.
  • traffickers and slave masters using whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment

Discriminatory abuse

This includes forms of:

  • harassment
  • slurs or similar treatment:
    • because of race
    • gender and gender identity
    • age
    • disability
    • sexual orientation
    • religion

Organisational abuse

Organisational abuse includes neglect and poor care practice within an institution or specific care setting such as a hospital or care home, for example, or in relation to care provided in one’s own home. This may range from one off incidents to on-going ill-treatment. It can be through neglect or poor professional practice as a result of the structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation.

Neglect and acts of omission

These include:

  • ignoring medical
  • emotional or physical care needs
  • failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services
  • the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating

Self-neglect

This covers a wide range of behaviour neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding.

Patterns of abuse vary and include:

  • serial abuse, in which the perpetrator seeks out and ‘grooms’ individuals. Sexual abuse sometimes falls into this pattern as do some forms of financial abuse
  • long-term abuse, in the context of an ongoing family relationship such as domestic violence between spouses or generations or persistent psychological abuse
  • opportunistic abuse, such as theft occurring because money or jewellery has been left lying around