What should I do if I am worried about a vulnerable adult?

If you see, hear or suspect that an adult may be at risk of abuse or neglect, you must tell someone about it. If they are in immediate danger contact the police on 999.

Otherwise contact Care Direct on 0345 155 1007 or email customerservicecentrecaredirectteam-mailbox@devon.gov.uk.   


Protecting vulnerable adults

Vulnerable adults have the right to live their lives to the fullest potential, to be protected, to have the opportunity to participate in and enjoy activity, and to be treated with dignity and respect. 

For more information about protecting vulnerable adults in Devon, please visit: Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership.


Types of abuse and neglect

The following descriptions of types of abuse and neglect can help decide whether someone is at risk:

Physical Abuse, including

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

Domestic and sexual violence and abuse including

  • psychological,
  • physical,
  • sexual,
  • financial,
  • emotional abuse;
  • so-called 'honour' based violence.

Sexual abuse including

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

Psychological abuse including

  • 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 including

  • theft,
  • fraud,
  • internet scamming,
  • misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

Financial abuse can also include coercion in relation to an adult's financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, 

Modern slavery including

  • slavery,
  • human trafficking,
  • forced labour 
  • 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.

Discriminatory abuse including forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment; because of

  • race,
  • age,
  • disability,
  • religion.
  • sexual orientation
  • gender and gender identity,

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 ongoing 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.

Self neglect 

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

For more information about adult safeguarding, please visit: Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership.