Back to The duty to report an adult at risk of abuse and/or neglect

Recognising an adult at risk of abuse and neglect

The definitions of risk are outlined in section 1. and the signs and indicators of possible abuse and neglect in Pointers for Practice section 1.

Pointers for Practice: Potential Barriers to Recognising and Reporting Abuse and Neglect

Evidence required

As evidence of abuse may not always be present, suspicion of abuse or neglect may take the form of ‘concerns’ rather than ‘known facts’

Alternatively, ‘concerns’ may be based on information derived from a variety of sources or may accumulate over time.

Example: concerns about possible abuse or neglect of a resident in an older person’s home may result from an accumulation of information obtained from the individual, family member, volunteers and ancillary staff. This constitutes a duty to report.

Practitioners should also remember that their concerns may, in isolation, not seem significant. However, alongside those from other agencies and sources they may build up a picture which suggests that an adult at risk may be suffering or at risk of abuse or neglect.

Example: a GP sees an older patient with dementia, who does not appear to be responding to treatment for ulcerated legs. Whilst the patient’s carer, who is a family member, assures the doctor the prescribed treatments are being followed the GP questions whether this is the case. She consults initially with other health professionals and the information shared indicates the patient is at risk of neglect. The GP has a duty to report.


Abuse can occur anywhere. For example, in the home, a residential or day care setting, during leisure activities. It may occur in private or in a communal setting such as a swimming pool.

Abuse can also occur on-line through, for example, social media.

The concerns may be about the behaviour of a practitioner, volunteer; carer; family member or member of the community.

The concerns may also be present when the individual is already known to social services. Therefore, do not presume because the individual is known there is no need to report. Always report.