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Discriminatory Abuse

Discrimination is where someone treats you differently or unfairly because they think you are different to them. This might be because of:

  • Age (actual or perceived)
  • Disability
  • Gender / gender identity
  • Ethnic, racial, cultural or national origin
  • Religious belief / non-belief
  • Sexual orientation

These are known as “protected characteristics” under the Equality Act 2010. The Act makes it a crime to treat anyone differently because of these things.

Discriminatory abuse is particularly where this treatment is harassing, threatening or results in ill-treatment and / or harm.

Discriminatory abuse can overlap many other forms of abuse, which may make it more hidden.

What might it look like?

  • Verbal abuse, derogatory remarks or inappropriate use of language related to a protected characteristic
  • Denying access to communication aids, not allowing access to an interpreter, signer or lip-reader
  • Harassment or deliberate exclusion on the grounds of a protected characteristic
  • Poor quality service relating to a protected characteristic, or being refused access to a service
  • Lack of disabled access

How might you recognise it?

  • acts or comments motivated to harm and damage including inciting others to commit abusive acts
  • lack of effective communication provision e.g. interpreters
  • the adult being subjected to racist, sexist, ageist, gender-based abuse
  • abuse specifically about their disability
  • the person appears withdrawn and isolated
  • the person expresses anger, frustration, fear or anxiety


The Local Government Association (LGA) have produced a useful toolkit to help identify discriminatory abuse.

"The discriminatory abuse self-assessment tool is intended to support councils, Safeguarding Adult Boards (SABs), practitioners from all sectors, staff responsible for reporting adult social care (ASC) performance; safeguarding leads and commissioners."

You can access it here:

LGA discriminatory abuse self-assessment

Hate incidents are a form of discriminatory abuse.

A hate incident is any incident which is perceived by the person, or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hatred in terms of the protected characteristics above.

Hate crimes are crimes committed against people because of those same differences.

Hate incidents / crime can be anything from name calling, physical attack, vandalism or steeling a person’s property, motivated by prejudice, hostility or hatred towards that individual because they are ‘different’. It may or may not be a crime and it may or may not be linked to a safeguarding concern. There are a number of ways to report a hate incident:



Eliminating racism at work

International Recruitment East (IRE) has an online information hub for anyone in the east of England involved in the recruitment of international workers for adult social care. The hub is available for colleagues who:

  • Represent a local authority in the region
  • Manage or work for a care provider in the region
  • Have been recruited from outside the UK and work in adult social care or are considering relocating to the region

IRE has published practical guidance Eliminating racism at work to help managers and workers:

  • Recognise racism at work and understand the impact
  • Know what to do if you, a colleague, or someone you manage is affected by racism
  • Know employer responsibilities to keep people safe from racism
  • Know what to do if a service user is racist towards a worker but has limited capacity to understand the impact of their behaviour

Within the hub, you can also

  • Complete a 20-minute eLearning module on supporting workers and addressing racism at work.
  • Book a place on a free 1.5-hour “Eliminating racism at work” webinar - via [email protected] - led by experienced trainers, Abraham Eshetu and Claire Charlwood.

If you’re grappling with a practice issue relating to racism, why not book a private 1-1 coaching session with an experienced professional? They cannot offer legal advice but offer a supportive space to talk through best practice guidance and help you decide on the right course of action for your organisation. To book a session, email [email protected]  using the heading 1:1 Support Session.