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What is abuse and neglect?

Abuse and neglect is when someone is caused harm by an individual or group.

Abuse and neglect is when someone is caused harm by an individual or group.

This harm could be physical, psychological, financial, sexual or emotional or take many other forms and can be deliberate or unintentional.

Unintentional abuse or neglect can arise through a number of situations, including pressure on a carer building up because of difficult behaviour from the cared for.

What to do if a child's at risk

Concerns or allegations against a professional or volunteer working with children should be reported to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse where a young person under the age of 18 is encouraged, trapped, forced or coerced into a sexual relationship or situation. If it's happening to you or someone close to you there is help and support out there.

What to do if an adult is at risk

Everybody can help adults to live free from harm and abuse. You play an important part in preventing and identifying neglect and abuse.

If you are worried for yourself or someone you know

By calling 020 8496 3000 at any time

By emailing

Online by completing our online referral form to raise a safeguarding concern.

Your contact will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We can help if you or the person are unable to protect themselves and are experiencing or at risk of experiencing abuse.

You or the person you're worried for doesn’t need to be in contact with social workers or health workers to receive this service.

If you think a crime is being or has been committed, or someone is in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

You can report non-urgent crime to the Metropolitan Police online.

Definitions of abuse and neglect

The Care Act 2014 sets out the safeguarding responsibilities of local services and shows some of the forms abuse or neglect can take. This is not a complete list and all cases must be considered individually.

  • Physical abuse: including assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate physical sanctions.
  • Domestic violence: including psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse; so called 'honour' based violence.
  • Sexual exploitation: involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where adults at risk (or a third person or persons) receive 'something' (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. It affects men as well as women.
  • Sexual abuse: including rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking or touching, sexual teasing or innuendo, sexual photography, subjection to pornography or witnessing sexual acts, indecent exposure and sexual assault or sexual acts to which the adult has not consented or was pressured into consenting.
  • Psychological abuse: including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, cyber bullying, isolation or unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or supportive networks.
  • Financial or material abuse: including theft, fraud, internet scamming, coercion in relation to an adult's financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
  • Modern slavery: is an overarching term used to describe slavery and human trafficking. There are different types of Modern Slavery – forced labour, forced criminal activity, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, child exploitation and organ harvesting. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment. Victims can be trafficked to the UK from other countries or can be UK nationals. Modern slavery and human trafficking can be large scale organised crime or one individual or a small group of individuals who have close contact with the victim. 
  • Discriminatory abuse: including forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment; because of race, gender and gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
  • Organisational abuse: including neglect and poor care practice within an institution or specific care setting such as a hospital or care home, for example, or in relation to care provided in one's own home. This may range from one-off incidents to on-going ill-treatment. It can be through neglect or poor professional practice as a result of the structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation.
  • Neglect and acts of omission: including ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition and heating.
  • Self-neglect: this covers a wide range of behaviours including neglecting to care for one's personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding.