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Safeguarding Adults: concerned about possible abuse?

What you should do if you think a vulnerable adult is at risk of being abused (Factsheet 054)

What do we mean by safeguarding?

Safeguarding Adults is the term used when agencies (such as the police, social services and health services), as well as the general public, work together to keep vulnerable adults safe from the risk of harm or abuse.

A vulnerable adult is someone who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who may be unable to take care of themselves or to protect themselves against harm or exploitation.

Everyone has a responsibility to ensure abuse does not take place.  If you know or suspect that someone you know is being abused you should tell Social Services so that something can be done about it.

What do we mean by abuse?

Abuse means being treated badly.  It can be the result of an action or the failure to act in an appropriate manner.  It includes physical abuse, financial or material abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect.  It may consist of a single act or repeated acts.

Who might abuse someone?

Abuse can occur in any relationship - personal, professional or institutional. 

An abuser might be a family member, friend or neighbour. 

It could be someone who is paid to deliver care or other professional services, a health worker or someone working as a volunteer.

There are also people who befriend vulnerable adults and gain their trust in order to exploit or abuse them. 

In an institutional setting, such as a care home or day service, the abuse could be by someone working there or someone else living in or using the service.

What should I do if I am concerned about someone?

Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility.  If you suspect that abuse or neglect is taking place, you should report your concerns.  You should not ignore your concerns or assume that someone else will report the abuse.

Possible indications of abuse or neglect include:

  • Unexplained injury
  • Signs of fear or distress
  • Withdrawal
  • Signs of neglect
  • Personal belongings missing
  • Unexplained or sudden inability to pay bills

If the person is in immediate danger you should first ensure that they are safe, and contact the emergency services if necessary.

What do I do if I am concerned for myself?

If you feel able to, you can report your concerns yourself.

Otherwise talk to someone you trust - a family member, friend or, if you wish, your social worker.  Explain what you are worried about and what evidence you have so they can help you take appropriate action.

How do I report suspected abuse?

To report suspected abuse, contact Social Services.

Tel: 01792 636854


If you think that a criminal act has or may have taken place you can contact the police on 01792 456999 or 101. In serious emergency circumstances please call 999.

What will happen if I report someone to Social Services?

When you contact us, we call this a 'referral. We will take as many details as we need to see whether the referral needs to go through the safeguarding process or whether another service might be better.

If the referral needs to go through the safeguarding process, Social Services will arrange an investigation in line with the Wales Interim Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults from Abuse (Social Care Wales)Opens new window.

The investigation may involve several agencies eg health services, police who will work together and talk to people involved to find out what has happened and what the person who has been abused would like to happen. If a crime has been committed (such as theft or assault) the police will talk to the person who has been abused about whether they want to press charges.

If the person who has been abused is not able to make decisions about what should happen, they might have an independent advocate, relative or care manager to speak on their behalf.

After the investigation, action will be taken to ensure the person is protected in the future.  This action will depend on individual circumstances, but it might be the person getting a different kind of service or support, or a court taking legal action.

What if I am mistaken and there is no abuse taking place?

If you are not sure, it is better to have discussed your concerns with somebody who has experience and responsibility to make an informed decision than to ignore a situation which may result in someone vulnerable being harmed.

Swansea Social Services and personal information

When you are in touch with Social Services, we will keep information about you in written records and computer files. We will keep this information confidential, except where we need to share it with people providing you with care, or to protect you or other people. You have a right to ask to see records we keep about you.

We can give you more information about how we handle personal information in our factsheet Your Personal Information: Our Commitment to You

Comments and complaints

We welcome any comments about our services - good or bad. We are interested to hear how we could do things better, and we like to know when we are doing well.

You can use the Council's complaints procedure, details of which are given in the factsheet  Making a Comment, Complaint or Compliment about Swansea Social Services.  For more information contact our Complaints Officers on 01792 637345. 

Alternatively, you can use the Complaints Procedure (Western Bay Safeguarding Adults Board)Opens new window

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