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A vulnerable adult could be described as someone who is in need of assistance, care or support and is unable to take care of and protect themselves. Those who use health and social care services can be vulnerable because of their care and support needs. When one person has more power than another, they can either do things that support the other person to be independent or they can take advantage of their power and harm or abuse the other person in some way. This can include failing to treat someone with dignity and respect, causing physical or emotional suffering or even causing a person’s death. It can happen on purpose or due to neglect or because someone doesn’t know what they should do differently.

Abuse can take place anytime and anywhere. However, some situations increase an individual’s vulnerability. Examples are:

In an individual’s own home it is easier for an abuser to hide their actions from others Institutional abuse is more likely to happen when standards are poor and routines are planned to fit around a rota or workers feel unsupported by their management. This can lead to a way of working that everyone begins to see as acceptable. They do not try to challenge the situation because they are afraid of speaking out about what is being accepted by the majority.

Any workplace where individuals display difficult or challenging behaviour that workers are not trained or supported to deal with.

Particular vulnerabilities in the individual such as sensory impairment, a mental health issue, dementia or a learning disability. A reaction could be taken as a symptom of their condition rather than an attempt to tell someone what is happening to them.