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Adult safeguarding 

Find out more about adult safeguarding, including what to do if you are worried about someone you care about.

The Care Act 2014 defines safeguarding as 'protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect'.


Adult safeguarding duties apply to an adult who:

•    Has needs for care and support (whether or not the local authority is meeting any of those needs)    
•    Is experiencing, or at risk of abuse and neglect
•    As a result of their care and support needs, is unable to protect themselves from the risk or experience of abuse and neglect.

There are six key principles to adult safeguarding work

1.    Empowerment – People being supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and informed consent.  
2.    Prevention – It is better to take action before harm occurs.
3.    Proportionality – The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented.
4.    Protection – Support and representation for those in greatest need.
5.    Partnership – Local solutions through services working with their communities. Communities have apart to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse.
6.    Accountability – Accountability and transparency in delivering safeguarding.

Forms of abuse include:

Physical abuse
Including assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate physical sanctions.

Domestic violence and abuse
The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is: any pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.

It also includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse and so called ‘honour’ based violence - you can find out further information on this topic here.

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

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

Financial abuse
Including 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, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits. This may show itself in a change of living conditions, lack of heating, clothing, food; inability to pay bills/unexplained shortage of money; unexplained withdrawals from an account; unexplained loss/misplacement of financial documents.

This is the main form of abuse reported to the Office of the Public Guardian – there is more information available on this website.

Modern slavery
Encompasses slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment - click here for further information.

Discriminatory abuse
Includes forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment; because of race, gender and gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion  – there is more information available online.

Organisational abuse
Including 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
Including 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.

This covers a wide range of behaviour neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding. It should be noted that self-neglect may not prompt a Section 42 enquiry. An assessment should be made on a case-by-case basis. A decision on whether a response is required under safeguarding will depend on the adult’s ability to protect themselves by controlling their own behaviour. There may come a point when they are no longer able to do this, without external support.

Who abuses?

Anyone from relatives and family members to professional staff, paid care workers, volunteers, other service users, neighbours, friends and strangers.

What to do about it

The circumstances surrounding any actual or suspected abuse or neglect will inform the response, however the primary focus will be to safeguard the adult. If abuse is suspected, then consideration should be given to others who may also be at risk such as other adults or children.

If an adult is in immediate danger, then the police should be called and if necessary then evidence should be preserved.

Local contacts for safeguarding adults

If a referral is required for an adult safeguarding concern, the referral should be made to the local authority for the area in which the abuse occurred. However, you may want to contact a safeguarding lead to talk through your concerns.

NHS Cambridgeshire & Peterborough contacts:

  • Safeguarding Single Point of Contact (SPOC) – Email:

Local Authorities


For people who live in Cambridgeshire:
•    Tel: 0345 045 5202 (hold for adult social services)
•    Out of hours: 01733 234724
•    Email: 
•    Referral Form
•    Website: Cambridgeshire Adult Safeguarding

For people who live in Peterborough: 
•    Tel: 01733 747474 (option 1 for adult social services)
•    Out of hours: 01733 234724
•    Email: 
•    Referral Form 
•    Website: Peterborough Adult Safeguarding

For people who live in Hertfordshire:
•    Tel: (general): 0300 123 4040
•    Out of hours service: 0300 123 4042    
•    Other contacts
NHS England
Telephone: 101
Call 999 if it's an emergency  
Care Quality Commission
•    Tel: 0300 061 6161
•    website
NHS and Social Care
•    Tel: 0800 072 4725
Public Concern at Work    
•    Tel:  020 7404 6609
•    website