This can be deliberate or unintentional. It can involve the misuse of medication or the use of excessive force to restrain a person. Staff should always be vigilant to any evidence of hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, rough handling or any unnecessary use of physical force.


The relationship between a vulnerable adult and a carer is built on trust. Any sexual relationship between a carer and a vulnerable adult is an abuse of that trust and constitutes sexual abuse.

Emotional or psychological

This type of abuse can be very distressing for a victim and cause long-term harm. To protect adults from emotional or psychological abuse staff should be aware of:

  • threats of physical harm or abandonment
  • intimidation or humiliation by shouting or taunting
  • blame or threats of punishment
  • refusal of contact with friends or family
  • isolation
  • attempts to confuse or influence decisions

Financial or material

Vulnerable adults who trust others to help manage their finances or safeguard their property are open to an abuse of this trust. Staff should, therefore, be alert to any evidence of:

  • any attempt to convince a person to part with their money or property
  • any missing cash or possessions
  • any attempt to influence a person’s will or encourage them to give gifts

Neglect or acts of omission

A failure to address a vulnerable adult’s needs can cause distress and harm and constitute abuse. Therefore staff must be alert to anyone who:

  • ignores or withholds medical or physical care
  • fails to provide access to health, social care or educational services
  • withholds necessities of life including medication, food, clothing and heating

Staff also need to be aware of the responsibilities in relation to self-neglect and the VARM process if the person has the capacity and is self-neglecting when required.


All vulnerable adults have a right to be treated with respect. Discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, sexual orientation or disability can leave a person feeling isolated, victimized and threatened.

Institutional or organisational

This refers to any activity that is delivered in a way that suits the needs of the organisation and staff rather than the needs of the service users. It can happen if staff do not:

  • value all people equally
  • understand that different people have different needs
  • change the way they deliver a service so that it meets different needs