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Not all adults can protect and care for themselves.
Under Part 7 of the Social services and Well Being (Wales) Act 2014, an ‘adult at risk’ is defined as:
(a) is experiencing or is at risk of abuse or neglect
(b) has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs); and
(c) as a result of those needs is unable to protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect or the risk of it.”
Section 197(1) of the Act provides definitions of “abuse” and “neglect”:
“abuse” means physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse (and includes abuse taking place in any setting, whether in a private dwelling, an institution or any other place), and “financial abuse” includes:
- having money or other property stolen
- being defrauded
- being put under pressure in relation to money or other property
- having money or other property misused
“neglect” means a failure to meet a person’s basic physical, emotional, social or psychological needs, which is likely to result in an impairment of the person’s well-being (for example, an impairment of the person’s health or, in the case of a child, an impairment of the child’s development).
When assessing a situation regard should be had to the:
- frailty or vulnerability of the adult at risk
- extent of abuse or neglect
- length of time and frequency of the occurrence
- impact on the individual
- risk of repeated or escalating acts involving this or other adults at risk
The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples for each of the categories of abuse and neglect:
- physical abuse - hitting, slapping, over or misuse of medication, undue restraint, or inappropriate sanctions
- sexual abuse - rape and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the vulnerable adult has not or could not consent and/or was pressured into consenting
- psychological abuse - threats of harm or abandonment, coercive control, humiliation, verbal or racial abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks (coercive control is an act or pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation, intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim)
- neglect - failure to access medical care or services, negligence in the face of risk- taking, failure to give prescribed medication, failure to assist in personal hygiene or the provision of food, shelter, clothing; emotional neglect
- financial abuse in relation to people who may have needs for care and support. Possible indicators of this include:
- unexpected change to their will
- sudden sale or transfer of the home
- unusual activity in a bank account
- sudden inclusion of additional names on a bank account
- signature does not resemble the person’s normal signature
- reluctance or anxiety by the person when discussing their financial affairs
- giving a substantial gift to a carer or other third party
- a sudden interest by a relative or other third party in the welfare of the person
- bills remaining unpaid
- complaints that personal property is missing
- a decline in personal appearance that may indicate that diet and personal requirements are being ignored
- deliberate isolation from friends and family giving another person total control of their decision-making
Any of the above forms of abuse could be motivated by the personal characteristics of the victim. This may make it a hate crime. These involve a criminal offence perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s actual or perceived disability, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and transgender.
Duty to report adults at risk
The Act imposes a new duty on relevant partners to report to a local authority if it is suspected that an adult is an adult at risk. The Act also imposes a duty on a local authority to report to another local authority if an adult suspected of being an adult at risk is living in or moving to another area.
Under Section 126 (2) of the SSWB (Wales) act, the local authority has a duty to make enquiries where reasonable suspicion exists that an adult or child is ‘at risk’ of abuse or harm whether or not the person is ordinarily resident in the local authority area.
If abuse is reported to Social Services, there is a duty to make enquiries in order to decide with the Police and other key partners whether an investigation needs to take place, which will follow the Wales Safeguarding Procedures 2019 (external link).
This will involve multi-agency collaboration and response to safeguard the individual or persons considered to be ‘at risk’.
How to report suspected abuse?
If you believe you or someone else is at significant risk of imminent serious harm contact the police without delay by dialling 999.
To obtain the most appropriate support and advice, contact the Live Fear Free Helpline: 0808 80 10 800 (Freephone)
Contact the local Social Services on either of these numbers:
Children’s Social services: 01248 725888
Adult Social Services: 01248 752752
More information can be obtained on the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales website