What to do if you think someone is being abused

We believe everyone has the right to live a life free from abuse and neglect.

Peterborough City Council is dedicated to ensuring the safeguarding of adults at risk is a key priority when we are providing services to the public.

An adult at risk is someone aged 18 or over who may be unable to take care of themselves.  They may be unable to protect themselves from harm or from being exploited by others. An adult at risk may therefore be a person who:

  • Is elderly and frail due to physical disability or cognitive impairment.
  • Has a learning disability
  • Has a physical disability and or/sensory impairment
  • Has mental health needs including dementia or a personality disorder
  • Has a long term illness/condition
  • Misuses substances and alcohol
  • Is a carer a carer such as a family member/friend who provides personal assistance and care to adults and is subject to abuse.
  • Is unable to demonstrate the capacity to make a decision and is in need of care and support

Adults at risk are more likely to experience abuse than the rest of the population. They’re also less likely to be able to take steps to keep themselves safe or use services that will help them to stay safe.

What is abuse?

Abuse is mistreatment by any other person that violates someone’s human and civil rights. For example, abuse can vary from treating someone with disrespect in a way that significantly affects their quality of life, to causing actual physical suffering.

Abuse can happen anywhere – in a residential or nursing home, in a hospital, in the workplace, at a day centre or educational establishment, in supported housing or in the street.

Forms of abuse include:

  • physical abuse such as hitting, pushing, pinching, shaking, misusing medication, scalding, restraining, hair-pulling
  • sexual abuse such as rape, sexual assault or sexual acts to which a vulnerable adult could not have consented, or where they were pressurised into consenting
  • psychological or emotional abuse such as threats of harm or abandonment, being deprived of social contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, or being prevented from receiving services or support
  • financial or material abuse such as theft, fraud or exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property, or inheritance, misuse of property, possessions or benefits
  • neglect such as ignoring medical or physical care needs, preventing access to services or withholding food, drink or heating
  • discriminatory abuse – harassment or slurs based on a person’s race, sexuality or disability
  • institutional abuse – abuse in residential homes, nursing homes or hospitals when people are mistreated because of poor or inadequate care, neglect or poor working practices.

Any of these forms of abuse can be deliberate or the result of ignorance. Often, if a person is being abused in one way, they are also being abused in other ways.

Who might be causing the abuse?

The person (or people) responsible for the abuse are often very well know to the person who is being abused. They could be:

  • a relative, friend or neighbour
  • a health worker, social worker or other worker
  • another resident or service user
  • an occasional visitor or someone who is providing a service
  • someone who deliberately exploits vulnerable people

What should you do if you think someone is being abused?

Anyone who is concerned that an adult is being subjected to harm abuse or neglect should contact us using the details below:

  • In non-urgent situations it is important that the information is reported to Adult Social Care so that a care worker can play a part in planning how to respond to any specific case. This is the same as for child abuse.
  • Referrals may be made during working hours through the Peterborough Direct telephone number: (01733) 74 74 74. In emergencies outside office hours contact the Emergency Duty Team Social Worker on (01733) 234724 or the Police on 0345 456 45640.

What will happen if you report suspected abuse?

If you report abuse to us, we will talk to you about it as soon as possible. If there is immediate danger, we will aim to visit you, or the person you are concerned about, straight away.

If there is a significant risk of harm, we will aim to visit within 24 hours.

For other reports of abuse, we will normally visit within five working days.

We will work with the person who is being abused to help them make any decisions. We will provide help and support, and take action to try to end the abuse and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

We will not normally share information with other people without getting the permission of the person who is being abused. The only exceptions to this are in situations where others may be at risk of abuse, or where the person is not able to make decisions for themselves because of mental disability.