Protecting vulnerable adults

The Council works closely with the other Councils in the west of Berkshire, the police, probation, health and a range of private and voluntary agencies to try and prevent adult abuse occurring and stop it when it happens.

Call us on 0118 937 3747 if you are:

  • An adult who is vulnerable because of your age, an illness or disability and someone is hurting you, frightening you, stealing from you or neglecting you
  • Worried that someone you know is being abused or neglected.

If you have concerns that a provider of services is neglecting a person, please contact the Safeguarding Adults Team.

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What is abuse?

Vulnerable adults who may be at risk of harm by others because of their age, an illness or disability may experience harm and abuse in a number of different ways:

Physical abuse 

Where someone hurts you intentionally - for example they may hit, kick, pinch, push or burn you. They may restrain you so you can't move properly or they may give you the wrong medicine.

Sexual abuse

Where someone touches you inappropriately, makes you touch them or makes you have sex with them when you do not want to.

Emotional abuse

Where someone says nasty things to you, shouts at you, calls you names, threatens you or even ignores you.


Where someone takes your money or things without asking or forces you to let them take things.


Where you are not being looked after properly - you could be cold, hungry, have to wear dirty clothes or are not getting your medicine because you are not getting the support you need.


Where people treat you badly or differently because of the colour of your skin, your disability, your religion or your age.

Abuse can happen anywhere and it can be caused by anyone. 

What are the signs of abuse?

Signs of abuse include things like:

Changes in behaviour

If the person has become withdrawn, weepy, angry or depressed.

Changes in appearance

If the person seems to be wearing the same clothes, not washing their hair or putting on make-up when they used to.

Changes in lifestyle, routine or circumstances 

For example the person may stop going out, or refuse to let visitors in or saying they cannot afford things they could previously.

Injuries which occur regularly

Such as black eyes, bruises or cuts.

Unusual difficulty with finances  

Unpaid bills or debts are building up. 

Over-emphasising that everything is OK  

If the person keeps saying "nothing is wrong" more often than normal.

Seeking attention

The person appears to be more comfortable when other people are around.

Appearing to be frightened

Especially when a certain person comes into the room.

Changing in eating habits  

The person appears have lost their appetite and is losing weight.

If you spot any of these signs talk to the person when they are on their own to see if you can help - they may be experiencing other problems (like illness or depression).

If you are worried about an adult who is vulnerable because of their age, an illness or disability call Adult Social Care Services.

We will investigate thoroughly and try to make sure the person you are concerned for gets the help they need. 

How are reports of abuse investigated?

We ask trained staff to carry out a careful and sensitive enquiry. What happens next will depend on the wishes of the person concerned and the seriousness of their situation. Their safety is our priority.

We will offer information and advice so the person can make an informed choice about any practical help they need or action they wish to take. If they are unable to make an informed choice, care will be taken to support them in the best way possible.

We follow Berkshire's policy and procedures - you can see these online on the Berkshire Adults Safeguarding website.

What is the role of the Safeguarding Adults Partnership Board (SAPB)?

The key aims of the West of Berkshire SAPB are to:

  • Ensure that whenever abuse or neglect is suspected or reported, there is an effective, consistent, and coordinated response across Berkshire
  • Ensure that partner agencies have preventative measures in place to lessen the likelihood of abuse occurring
  • Increase the awareness of safeguarding issues amongst the general public, carers, service users, voluntary and paid workers
  • Provide a framework for the further inter-agency development of safeguarding policy including learning lessons from practice in Berkshire
  • Provide positive safeguarding outcomes for service users, which are best achieved by robust and effective inter-agency working.

For more information see:

The West of Berkshire Safeguarding Adults Board Website

pdf icon West of Berkshire Safeguarding Adults Partnership Board Annual Report [489kb]

pdf icon West of Berkshire Safeguarding Adults Workforce Development Strategy [252kb]

Berkshire Safeguarding Adults Policy and Procedures

How does the Mental Capacity Act protect vulnerable adults?

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 came into force in April 2007 to empower and protect people who do not have the ability to make their own decisions, especially about things like finance, social care, medical treatment and research arrangements.

This could be because they have:

  • A learning disability
  • Dementia
  • A mental health problem
  • A brain injury or a stroke.

The law aims to ensure that people who lack capacity to make decisions by themselves get the support they need to be as involved as possible in decisions about their lives.

It also outlines how an assessment of mental capacity should be made, in which situations other people can make decisions for someone who cannot act on their own and how people can plan ahead in case they become unable to make decisions in the future.

For more information see's advice on making decisions about your health, welfare and finances.

How do the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) protect vulnerable adults?

When someone lacks mental capacity to consent to care or treatment, it is sometimes necessary to deprive them of their liberty in their best interests, to protect them from harm.

Having mental capacity means being able to understand and retain information and to make a decision based on that information.

The safeguards are intended to:

  • Protect people who lack mental capacity from being detained when this is not in their best interests
  • To prevent arbitrary detention
  • To give people the right to challenge a decision.

The legislation sets out a procedure for care homes and hospitals to obtain authorisation to deprive someone of their liberty.

Without that authorisation the deprivation of liberty will be unlawful.

These safeguards are intended to protect people from being deprived of their liberty unless it is in their best interests to protect them from harm and there is no other less restrictive alternative.

If you think someone is being deprived of their liberty without authorisation contact the Safeguarding Adults Team.  

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