What Are Your Responsibilities in Safeguarding Adults?

Group of people sitting in a circle on group therapy. Looking at their therapist and listening ti her story. Children’s Act 2004

Whilst growing up, until they reach the age of 18, children are protected by the Children’s Act 2004[1].  The Care Act 2014[2] sets out how adults must also be protected from similar abuse and neglect. It specifically applies to vulnerable adults.


The definition of a vulnerable adult

They must be:

  • over 18.
  • have a disability, either physical or mental.
  • elderly or have an illness that has caused them to struggle to be able to look after themselves independently.
  • homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • in or fleeing an abusive relationship.

In all circumstances, the individual is unable to protect themselves from harm and neglect.


The Care Act 2004

The Care Act outlines 6 principles that apply to all sectors and settings which provide care, education, healthcare, housing and welfare benefits, social work and criminal justice systems to vulnerable adults. The principles form the foundation of responsibilities professionals have and outline how they should engage and work with vulnerable adults.


Six key principles are[3]:


  • People are supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and give informed consent.


  • It is better to take action before harm occurs.
  • Individuals receive clear and simple information about what abuse is, how to recognise the signs and what to do to seek help.


  • The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented.
  • Professionals will only become involved in an individuals life in the individuals’ interest.


  • Support and representation for those in greatest need.
  • Individuals know they are able to report instances of abuse and neglect.


  • Local solutions through services working with their communities. Communities have a part to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse.
  • Professionals will work collaboratively to achieve the best result for them.


  • Accountability and transparency in delivering safeguarding.
  • Everyone understands the role they play.

The key principles apply to professionals working directly with vulnerable adults. However, it is vital that everyone is aware of their Duty of Care.


What is Duty of Care?

Duty of Care is about individual wellbeing, welfare, compliance and good practice. All workplaces have a moral and a legal obligation to ensure this.

Responsibility for all staff and professionals involves being aware, as outlined above, of the ways in which an adult could be vulnerable. They need to be alert to the threat and possibility of abuse, which can happen anywhere, at any time in numerous different ways. It is vital that staff and professionals learn to spot signs of this and are able to react appropriately to prevent/ stop it.

Workplace policies and procedures should be in place for safeguarding which will provide information on the steps to follow in reporting concerns of abuse. Issues of adult safeguarding are complex and can be subtle and difficult to identify. Training should be undertaken by anyone working with vulnerable adults or working in an environment where vulnerable adults are present.

You can view our Safeguarding Adults online training course here.


[1] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/31/contents

[2] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/23/contents/enacted

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-act-statutory-guidance/care-and-support-statutory-guidance#safeguarding-1