Adult abuse and safeguarding

Find out what counts as abuse, our responsibilities as a local authority and the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership.

You can report the abuse of an adult securely online. 

What counts as abuse?

There are many types of abusive behaviour, some of which are difficult to spot.

Abuse can include:

  • Domestic violence: abuse that takes place between family members or intimate partners regardless of gender or sexuality. It can consist of psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse and so-called 'honour' based violence
  • Sexual abuse: any sexual act that a person does not agree to
  • Psychological or emotional: this is when someone makes threats of harm, abandonment, humiliation, intimidation or verbal abuse
  • Financial: this includes stealing someone's money or denying them access to their money, property or possessions
  • Neglect or acts of omission: this can be both physical and emotional. It could be failing to keep an adult at risk clean or warm, not promoting optimum health, not providing adequate nutrition or medication. It could also mean preventing someone from making their own choices
  • Discriminatory: abusive remarks or actions relating to a person's age, race, religion, sex or abilities
  • Organisational abuse: this happens when the routines in use force residents or service users to sacrifice their own needs, wishes or preferred lifestyle to the needs of the institution or service provider
  • Modern slavery: such as human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude

Who is at risk of abuse?

Any vulnerable adult can be at risk of abuse or harm.

People can be abused in:

  • their own homes
  • care homes (with or without nursing)
  • day centres
  • workplaces
  • hospitals
  • police stations
  • public places

You can find further details, including indicators of abuse, in the Adult Safeguarding Policy and Operational Guidance on the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership adult's website

Our responsibilities 

Suffolk County Council has a duty to make an enquiry, or cause others to do so when:

  • an adult has care and support needs
  • there is a suspicion that abuse or neglect has occurred or is likely to
  • an adult is unable to safeguarding themselves due to care and support needs

An enquiry is an action taken in response to a concern before a formal enquiry under Section 42 of the Care Act is undertaken. 

Who might commit abuse?

Adults at risk could be abused by anyone, including:

  • relatives
  • carers
  • professional staff
  • care staff
  • volunteers
  • neighbours
  • friends
  • other service users

Institutions and services can be guilty of abuse if they:

  • persistently fail to take account of the needs of the people using that service
  • do not provide the staffing or equipment to enable people's needs to be met adequately and safely

Professional status or title does not guarantee safety. There are many recent examples of professionals being responsible for the abuse.

More than one person may abuse an adult at risk. Some sources of risk will abuse more than one alleged victim.

It can be difficult to understand why anyone would want to abuse an older person, someone with a physical or learning disability, or someone who is unwell. In some instances, the abuse may not have been deliberate, malicious or premeditated. It can happen when people are trying to do their best but are unaware of what is the right thing to do.

Social Care Services have a lead role in assisting, supporting and protecting the most vulnerable children, young people and adults in our community.

Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership

The Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership holds a statutory role in supporting, coordinating and overseeing the delivery and quality of multi-agency adult safeguarding activity in Suffolk.

The Partnership's adult's website provides a wide range of information on their work. It also includes published reports, information and guidance. 

Download the Adults Multi Agency Policy published on

Safeguarding children

All the key child protection policies and guidance that agencies must follow to keep children safe in the county is available on the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership children's website

They explain what is expected of everybody when there is a concern about a child's safety, what they should do, who they should contact and how. 

The procedures apply to all children up to the age of 18 years, including unborn babies.