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What is Adult Safeguarding?



Everyone deserves to live a life that is free from neglect, abuse or exploitation. Used throughout the UK and in many countries worldwide, safeguarding is a system of policies and procedures that are designed to reduce, and ideally, prevent harm to vulnerable individuals. Although the term is often used to refer to a wide range of groups, including young childrenit also relates to vulnerable adults. 

It’s possible that, whether in an employed or voluntary capacity, you may work or interact with vulnerable adults as part of your job role, so it’s important to understand what adult safeguarding is and why it’s a key part of workplace safety. 


When is Someone Considered a Vulnerable Adult?

A vulnerable adult is someone over the age of 18 who may be unable to care for their wellbeing without aid, or are at risk of harm or exploitation. This criteria applies to a wide array of  people, including:

  • Individuals that experience problems with mental health.
  • Individuals who are dependent on substances (both legal and illegal) or alcohol.  
  • Individuals with learning disabilities.  
  • Individuals with significant behavioural issues.
  • Individuals who have physical disabilities or sensory impairment.
  • Individuals living in refuge or sheltered housing.
  • Elderly people who are physically frail or experience cognitive impairment (such as dementia).

It important to remember that anyone can become vulnerable, even if they are capable of looking after their own affairs and wellbeing. Carer’s for example,  may find themselves at risk of  becoming vulnerable, particularly if they do not have access to an adequate support network or respite care.

Being aware of the signs and circumstances that can lead to a person becoming vulnerable is the first step in enacting effective safeguarding measures, both inside and outside of the workplace.


Why is Safeguarding Adults Important?

There are a number of reasons why safeguarding adults is important, particularly within a business or organisation. 

1) It promotes the importance of respecting and ensuring every individual’s right to a safe and secure work environment, and that they’re kept informed and consulted on decisions relating to their wellbeing.

 2) It helps to create a culture of social awareness and responsibility. While safeguarding may relate particularly to vulnerable adults, staff members are encouraged to be aware of the needs of their co-workers, and to take appropriate steps if they recognise something which may cause concern. This ensures that everyone is valued and appropriately supported within their workplace . 

3) This social awareness can have a positive impact on the communication skills of staff members. The ability to communicate effectively with others about their safety and wellbeing is at the core of safeguarding. Knowing how to speak clearly, concisely, and appropriately about these subjects not only promote team cohesion, but it can have far reaching benefits that can improve communication at all levels of an organisation.

4) Finally, it demonstrates to everyone, from customers to stakeholders, that your organisation is dedicated to taking best practice seriously, and that you value and support every single one of your staff members.


“Safeguarding is Everyone’s Business”

– Hilary Garrett, Director of Nursing in NHS England.


The 6 Principles of Adult Safeguarding

One of the key pieces of legislation that determines safeguarding procedures for vulnerable adults is The Care Act 2014, which unified a number of previous regulations relating to social care under one comprehensive parliamentary Act.

In particular, the Act sets out 6 key principles of safeguarding that serve as a solid foundation on which to build safeguarding policies and procedures in the workplace.

  • Empowerment – Individuals should be given the opportunity to make their own informed decisions concerning their needs in the workplace. 


  • Prevention – Organisations should always aim to take proactive steps to prevent safeguarding concerns from developing to begin with. This can be achieved by providing clear information, effective training, and promoting awareness.


  • Proportionality – Safeguarding actions should be proportionate to the risk involved. Being over-protective can have a detrimental effect on the individual in question and deprive them of the right to have a say in matters regarding their own safety and wellbeing. 


  • Protection – Staff members should know what to do if they have a safeguarding concern. They should know how to identify and raise concerns, and be given guidance on how to offer help and support to people who may be at risk.


  • Partnership – Safeguarding is about everyone, from co-workers to managers and even board members working together to cover all angles in preventing, detecting and reporting concerns appropriately.


  • Accountability – Organisations should promote accountability and transparency in delivering safeguarding practice throughout their workplace. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly outlined, so that safeguarding procedures can be followed appropriately.



Ultimately, adult safeguarding is about being able to support vulnerable people, so they can have a good quality of life. As a result it’s important that anyone who works or volunteers with vulnerable adults receives appropriate training.    

While adult safeguarding requires a great amount of responsibility and accountability, it’s important to remember that it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience which can have a positive impact on your staff members and your organisation as a whole. 

Looking for adult safeguarding training? Check out the EssentialSkillz Adult Safeguarding course completely free.

This article is purely for informational purposes. For more information on Adult Safeguarding, visit the Health and Safety Executive