Advice for Family Members, Carers and Friends


Advice for Family Members, Carers and Friends

If you are worried about an adult, this page will give you help and advice about what to do.

Family members, relatives, friends and neighbours all have an important part to play in keeping adults with care and support needs safe from abuse and neglect. A carer is someone who spends a large part of their time providing unpaid support to a family member, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or substance misuse problems.

Identifying signs of Abuse

It’s not always easy to spot the symptoms of abuse. Someone being abused may make excuses for why they’re bruised, they don’t want to go out or talk to people, or they’re short of money.

It’s important to know the signs of abuse and, where they are identified, gently share your concerns with the person being abused. If you wait, hoping the person will tell you what’s been happening to them, you could delay matters and allow the abuse to continue.

Recognising and Reporting Abuse

Adult abuse can take many forms:

Physical Abuse

This includes hitting, slapping, pinching, pushing, misuse of medication and inappropriate holding or restraint. It may also include inappropriate sanctions or punishment and rough handling.

Sexual Abuse

This includes rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking or touching, sexual teasing or innuendo, sexual photography, subjection to pornography or witnessing sexual acts, sexual acts or indecent exposure to which the adult has not consented or was pressured into, including ‘revenge porn’ and ‘sexting’. Any sexual relationship that develops between an adult in a position of trust and an adult with care and support needs may also constitute sexual abuse.

Financial Abuse

This includes fraud, theft, taking property without permission, assuming ownership of money or items, scamming (which can be in person, by letter, phone and internet), coercion in relation to an adult’s financial affairs including the writing of or changing a Will, and misuse of benefits. Financial abuse can involve small and large amounts of money or value of property. Financial abuse can be a criminal act, insidious and can be perpetrated by people well known to the adult at risk.

Discriminatory Abuse

Discriminatory abuse is often on the grounds of age, race, gender or gender identity, culture, religion, sexual orientation or disability. It can also include derogatory comments, harassment and being denied treatment on grounds of age or mental health.

Emotional/Psychological Abuse

This includes threats of harm or abandonment, blackmail, deprivation of contact, humiliation and ridicule, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, isolation, cyber bullying, shouting and swearing, unreasonable support of services or support networks, denial of cultural or religious needs, denial of access to the development of social skills.

Neglect (and acts of omission)

This includes ignoring medical, emotional or physical needs; failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services; withholding the necessities of life including medication, adequate nutrition and heating.


This includes a wide range of behaviour including neglect to care for one’s personal hygiene, health, medical needs or surroundings and can include hoarding when it becomes extreme (including animal hoarding). In these circumstances there is no third-party abuser.

Organisational/institutional Abuse

This includes the mistreatment of people brought about by poor or inadequate care or support, or systematic poor practice that affects the whole care setting. It occurs when the individual’s wishes and needs are sacrificed for the smooth running of a group, service or organisation. Organisational abuse is often an indication a poorly led service or may exist in care settings where there is a delinquent or bullying culture within the staff group.

Domestic Abuse

This includes any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. Domestic abuse can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.

Modern Slavery

This includes offences of human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Victims of modern slavery are exploited in a range of ways. Both adults and children can be trafficked for the purposes of exploitation, with sexual exploitation, labour exploitation or criminal exploitation being the most common types. Other types also exist, including domestic servitude.

Hate and Mate Crime

This includes when someone ‘makes friends’ with a person and goes on to abuse or exploit that relationship. The founding intention of the relationship, from the point of view of the perpetrator, is likely to be criminal. The relationship is likely to be of some duration and, if unchecked, may lead to a pattern of repeat and worsening abuse.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

This is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women and is an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

Support for Carers

We know that caring for someone can affect your health and wellbeing. Sometimes the behaviour of the person being cared for, intentionally or not, can be abusive and puts carers themselves at risk of harm. Sometimes carers can feel isolated and that they are not getting the support they might need from family, friends, professionals or paid carers. Carers can sometimes feel guilty or shame in asking for help – or deny that the abuse is happening to them.

If you are worried or concerned about someone or yourself, please don’t keep it to yourself.

If you are a carer, you are entitled to support from safeguarding services.

You might:

  • witness abuse or neglect
  • experience intentional or unintentional harm from the adult you are trying to support
  • unintentionally or intentionally harm or neglect the person you are supporting.


Help and support is available for you.