What is Safeguarding Adults and What are the Legal Responsibilities of Caregivers?

what is safeguarding adults

Providing care to vulnerable individuals can be incredibly rewarding, but it also comes with a great deal of responsibility. One of the central aspects of the duty of care providers is the obligation to identify and protect people who may not be able to look after themselves.

Everyone, regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnicity has the right to live their lives free of fear, abuse or neglect. Sadly, those that are vulnerable are at a higher risk of neglect and abuse.

Someone with an illness, a disability, a mental health condition, a substance abuse problem, or with care and support needs is easily taken advantage of.  So, they are more likely to be exposed to harm due to neglect, abuse, or exploitation. Although not pleasant to even consider, it does occur.

Why We Need Safeguarding

In England alone, there were 475,560 concerns of abuse raised in 2019-20, which marked an increase of 14.6% on the previous year, according to the NHS.

The most common type of risk enquiry was Neglect and Acts of Omission, or ignoring someone’s needs, which accounted for 31.8%

When working in the Care or Education sector, it is essential to protect the human rights and safety of these individuals. If employees do not undertake the right training for the care assistant role in safeguarding, they could expose vulnerable adults or children to neglect and abuse, warning signs can be missed and poor safeguarding could result in:

  • Cases of abuse being missed
  • Deprivation of liberty
  • Abuse and neglect escalating to extreme outcomes, e.g. Serious injury or death
  • Children and adults not being treated fairly by those who care for them
  • Loss of dignity, and distress for those suffering and not knowing who to talk to – impacting behaviour

Safeguarding Courses

Our Safeguarding courses provide trainees with the concepts and principles of safeguarding. The course is designed for people at any level of work with vulnerable adults so that the signs of abuse are spotted and documented correctly.

Who We Need to Protect

In order to ensure abuse does not happen, it is essential to identify those amount us that are most at risk. These fall into two main categories, adults and children.


According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a vulnerable adult is someone who is aged 18 or over, has special needs, and may require community care due to mental or physical disability.

The individual may be suffering from old age, illnesses, or unable to take care of themselves. This also includes external factors such as unable protect oneself from physical harm, abuse, or exploitation.

A person may be classified as a vulnerable adult if they are:

  • Elderly and physically weak
  • Disabled physically or mentally
  • Addicted to substances or alcohol
  • Suffering from long-term illness
  • Caretakers to other vulnerable people
  • Suffering from physical disability
  • Suffering from mental disabilities such as dementia or schizophrenia
  • Unable to make decisions by themselves


Any individual under the age of 18 is legally considered a child. Unsurprisingly, children make up the most vulnerable members of any community and require special care and provisions. As a caregiver, it is your duty to provide vulnerable children safeguarding and ensure their welfare remains protected at all times. This includes creating a safe ecosystem for children identified as suffering and are likely to suffer from neglect, abuse, or exploitation.

Safeguarding covers several key topics on how vulnerable children must be protected and how you must effectively respond to their concerns. This includes a mix of policies, procedures, and practices to meet the social protection needs of children. The duties involve:

  • Protecting children from abuse and maltreatment
  • Preventing harm to children’s health or development
  • Ensuring children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Taking action to enable all children and young people to have the best outcomes

What is Safeguarding Adults and How It Works

Safeguarding is collection of policies and practices designed to protect the health, safety, and rights of vulnerable individuals. The purpose of these procedures is to ensure those in need of care, including both adults and children, are free from harm and are provided the same opportunities as everyone else.

The law requires organisations working in the Care and Education sector to ensure their employees are suitably trained to safeguard vulnerable individuals under their care. Let’s look at what it entails.

The Legal Background

Safeguarding adults in the UK is legislated under the Care Act 2014. The Care Act is a legal framework set out to assist local authorities and members of the public in practicing and promoting safeguarding duties.

The act defines adult safeguarding as:

‘Protecting an adult’s right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. It is about people and organisations working together to prevent and stop both the risks and experience of abuse or neglect.’

Six Principles of the Act

There are six principles of the Care Act that must be followed by everyone working with vulnerable adults:

  • Empowerment: Supporting people so they are confident in making their own decisions or giving informed consent
  • Prevention: Taking action before harm occurs
  • Proportionality: Handling cases in the least intrusive way
  • Protection: Providing support and representation for those in need
  • Partnerships: Forming partnerships with local communities to assist in detecting and preventing abuse
  • Accountability: Taking accountability and having complete transparency in delivering safeguarding practice

Aims of the Act

The aims of the Care Act are both proactive and reactive. The safeguarding duty of care mean the duties of anyone that may come into contact with those in need of care involve identifying and safeguarding vulnerable adults to prevent abuse, as well supporting and empowering adults to minimise the risk of abuse.

The aims are:

  • To prevent harm and reduce the risk of abuse or neglect to adults with Care and Support needs
  • To stop abuse or neglect wherever possible
  • To safeguard adults in a way that supports them to make choices and have control about the way they want to live
  • To promote a safeguarding and duty of care approach that concentrates on improving life for the adult (s) concerned
  • To raise public awareness so that communities as a whole, alongside professionals, play their part in preventing, identifying and responding to abuse and neglect
  • To provide information and support in accessible ways to help people understand the different types of abuse, how to stay safe and well and what to do to raise a concern about the safety or Wellbeing of themselves of another adult
  • To address what has caused the abuse or neglect

Additionally, adults who are incapable of making decisions for themselves must be evaluated under the Mental Capacity Act. The process determines whether the adult is capable of making choices on their own, and should receive safeguarding or not.

Children have parents, guardians, teachers, and other adult figures that can take the role of safeguarding, but who is responsible for safeguarding adults? Caregivers take the safeguarding responsibilities to help such vulnerable adults who need assistance.

The Role of Safeguarding in Care

Safeguarding professionals serve a vital role in any community’s wellbeing. By becoming a trained safeguarding expert, you can help your organisation protect vulnerable individuals and address the underlying reasons why such abuse flourishes.  When abuse happens, trained caregivers are able to spot it, maintain evidence, and report it to the concerned authorities.

If you are a caregiver working in a healthcare organisation, being trained in safeguarding can help you and the individuals under your care by identifying abuse and raising the issue with your employers. When an issue as such is reported to protection authorities, an investigation happens, and the law takes action to protect vulnerable person. With your expertise, the abuse is stopped and vulnerable person is cared for.

How to Train Your Staff in Safeguarding?

When someone in a vulnerable position needs care, whether through illness or disability, it is vital to ensure the person chosen for care is competent for the job. As caregiver in the healthcare sector, it is your duty to provide proper safeguarding training through a certified health and safety institute.

Our online Safeguarding training course helps caregivers follow the best practices in protecting the wellbeing of vulnerable adults. Our course is designed to teach caretakers in identifying, communicating, responding to signs of abuse or neglect. The training also includes key topics on following the correct procedures and reporting problems when a case is detected.

You can learn more on Safeguarding Training Course by through our website.

About the author(s)

Share with others
You might also like