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Types of abuse

Abuse comes in many forms, but all involve behaviour that is intended to cause harm to another person. Abuse is a violation of a person’s human and civil rights.

Harm may also be caused unintentionally, perhaps because of a lack of training or knowledge.

Remember that more than one form of abuse may apply in a situation – e.g. physical abuse by a person in the same household is domestic abuse; modern slavery may be financial abuse; neglect can also be organisational abuse. A person who is experiencing coercive control could also be financially, physically or emotionally abused. Abuse rarely occurs in isolation, so it is important to be able to recognise the different signs and indicators.

Abuse and harm may happen to anyone – but for safeguarding adults duties to apply under the Care Act the person must have (or appear to have) care and support needs and be unable to protect themselves from the harm because of those needs.

People without care and support needs may still need assistance and intervention, even if this is not through the local authority.  Abuse and harm often involve criminal or civil offences; there are also a wide range of organisations who can offer help outside of the safeguarding adults process to those in need.

The Care Act 2014 identifies ten categories of abuse, adding modern slavery, domestic abuse and self-neglect & hoarding to the existing seven types from 'No Secrets'.

There are more types of abuse you will hear about too, and we are gradually adding more information about these:


January 2022 - A paper has been published by looking at what the government and the general public think and say around the abuse of older people, and the level of public commitment to tackling the issue: Last in Line - briefing paper about abuse of older adults

"It is the first in a series of briefing papers being produced by Hourglass that will form the Safer Ageing Index – the first ever comprehensive examination of how the UK is doing when it comes to creating the right conditions for older people to age safely and reduce the risk and impact of abuse and neglect.

Hourglass is the UK’s only charity focused on the abuse and neglect of older people whose mission is simple: end the harm, abuse and exploitation of older people in the UK." (copied from the introduction)

It has some surprising statistics and shows that abuse of older adults remains a worryingly hidden issue.

For example, in a review of Twitter activity across the UK, they found that:

  • Grouse shooting was mentioned nearly four times as often as the abuse of older people
  • Fox hunting was mentioned nearly 20 times as often and parking nearly 30 times as often
  • People tweeted about animal abuse nearly 6 times as much as they tweeted about the abuse of older people