Vulnerable Adults And Abuse: The Core Definitions

We frequently hear that ‘vulnerable adults and children’ must be protected, but how many of us actually know who does and who does not fall under the umbrella term? It has become important that employers recognise when they provide services to vulnerable adults; if they do, they must ensure that their staff are not prohibited from carrying out such work.

Vulnerable adult definition

The first time that a ‘vulnerable adult’ was defined as someone who requires special protection was 20 years ago, within a governmental consultation entitled Who Decides?. In this document, a vulnerable adult is someone aged over 18 who “is or may be in need of community care services by reason of disability, age or illness, and is or may be unable to take care of or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation”. Employers whose staff come into contact with people that fall under this definition would be prudent to request a basic DBS check from their employees.

Abuse – definition and forms

Abuse is a form of mistreatment by one person against another that violates the person’s human and civil rights. The form that the abuse can take varies from physical to psychological, emotional or financial. The severity of the abuse can also vary, from treating someone disrespectfully in such a way that it significantly impacts upon their quality of life to causing physical or psychological suffering.

Who are abusers?

Research shows that the abuser is often well known to the person who is being abused, and is frequently placed in a position of authority or trust in relation to them. They can be a paid carer, a family member, a social care worker or other health care worker, amongst others. An employer who has obtained a basic DBS check will be better placed to judge the suitability of their employee dealing with the vulnerable adult in such a position of trust.

Alternatively, abusers are strangers who become friends with vulnerable people with the core intention of abusing them in some way or another. They will often deceive and manipulate the person into believing that they are a legitimate business or service provider. This is sometimes combined with intimidation techniques that lead vulnerable people to enter into financial transactions or contracts that they do not want or need.

Author: Lee Walters

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