We use cookies to help us provide you with the best experience, improve and tailor our services, and carry out our marketing activities. For more information, including how to manage your cookie settings, see our privacy notice.


Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

A - B

This page is free to all


There is no one definition of ‘abuse’. It tends to cover any form of maltreatment which a person may experience. Somebody may abuse or neglect an individual by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. 

There are more detailed definitions of abuse of children and abuse of adults. Categories of abuse can include:

  • discriminatory abuse
  • domestic abuse
  • economic or materials abuse
  • emotional and psychological abuse
  • institutional and organisational abuse
  • modern slavery
  • neglect and acts of omission
  • physical abuse
  • self-neglect
  • sexual abuse. 

Acts of omission

Acts of omission are considered to be partly within the wider ‘neglect’ form of abuse. It includes ignoring emotional, medical, or physical care needs and failing to provide access to health, social, and educational services are all acts of omission.


Any person 18 years old or over.

Adult at risk

According to NHS England, an ‘adult at risk’ or an ‘adult at risk of harm’ is anyone aged 18 or over

‘who may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age, or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation’.

It is important to note that the term ‘adult at risk’ is now used instead of ‘vulnerable adult’. The earlier term is seen to inappropriately suggest that there is some fault lying with the victim and to be dis-empowering. Therefore, it is important to use the correct and current term in most situations. Legally, the term vulnerable adult is still used in many of the laws related to safeguarding.

Adult safeguarding

See safeguarding.


An advocate is someone independent who helps a person to express their views, wishes, or feelings.

Advocacy services can also help to support children and adults with care and support needs and families who are impacted by safeguarding issues to be heard.  An individual adult who is the subject of a safeguarding enquiry has the right for an independent advocate to be arranged by the local authority.


An alert is raised if there is a concern that an adult is or may be at risk of being a victim of exploitation, neglect, or abuse. Alerts are raised by an 'alerter'.


An assessment is a process used mainly by social workers. It recognises the needs of an individual, if these needs are being met or not and how their well-being and day-to-day life are being impacted. The social worker will use this to establish if families or individuals need any extra support.

There are also other kinds of assessments such as risk assessments (see risk assessment section). 

Barred List

Maintained by the Disclosure and Barring Service, this is the list of people who are unsuitable to work or volunteer with children or with adults who may be at risk of harm or abuse, because of their past record.

Page last edited Oct 03, 2019

Help us to improve this page – give us feedback.