Napac (National Association for People Abused in Childhood)

November 2023 – This chapter, which contains information for practitioners on the action to take if an adult discloses abuse they experienced in the past, is new. It includes advice on how to support the adult concerned.

1. Introduction

There may be times when an adult makes an allegation of abuse, including sexual abuse, that happened many years ago. This is often called historical or non-recent abuse. Most commonly it is an adult reporting abuse that happened during their childhood, but it could also be an older adult who experienced abuse as a younger adult. The impacts of abuse can last a lifetime and can have an ongoing impact on the adult’s physical and mental health, relationships and wellbeing.

There are a number of reasons why the adult may not have been able to report the abuse at the time it took place. This includes:

  • a concern that they would not be believed;
  • not understanding what was happening to them;
  • a fear of retaliation from the alleged abuser;
  • the consequences to themselves or others of the impact / fallout of reporting the abuse;
  • a power imbalance between the abuser and the adult.

Reasons why an adult may later decide to report abuse they experienced as a child include:

  • media coverage of other successful prosecutions of historical abuse;
  • being aware of other allegations against the abuser and wanting to stop them abusing others;
  • having shared their experiences with another person who will support them to report the abuse;
  • seeking a sense of closure.

2. Action to Take

An adult may disclose non recent abuse to practitioners from any organisation, or may go directly to the Police or social care (children’s or adults).

The adult should be supported to share their story at their own pace and reassured that they will listened to and taken seriously.

It is important to avoid asking leading questions, but the following information will help identify appropriate next steps:

  • When the abuse occurred (and if possible, over what time period);
  • Where did the abuse took place and if there were other victims;
  • Who the perpetrator was (if the adult will not name the perpetrator, try to establish the relationship, e.g. family member, teacher, care worker);
  • If they know if the alleged perpetrator is still alive, and where they may live.
  • Whether the alleged abuser is known to still be contact with children, and the identity of any child who may currently be at risk, if known.

It should be explained that information the adult gives may need to be shared – even if the adult does not want to make a formal report to the Police or social care – to protect other children from possible abuse.

If the alleged abuser was in a position of trust with children or vulnerable adults at the time of the offence/s, either children’s social care or adult social care (as relevant) should hold a strategy discussion to determine what is known about the alleged abuser now and whether any further action is required, including whether other children may also have been abused or if they still have contact with children or vulnerable adults now – either professionally or in their home lives. Discussions should involve senior police officers and partner agency managers to ensure there are appropriate resources, as required.

Historical abuse allegations can be more complex to investigate and prosecute due to the passage of time; there may be less evidence available and / or people may have left the area for example. However, evidence including photographs may still be available and people may be willing to give statements. There are however many examples of successful prosecutions of historical abuse.

For further information in relation to children’s safeguarding, see the Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures.

For action in relation to adult safeguarding, see Safeguarding Enquiries Process.

3. Supporting the Adult

Adults should be offered appropriate support. This could include a referral to mental health services or signposting to local organisations who provide support for victims / survivors of abuse.

Agencies involved should agree who keeps the adult informed of progress with any investigation.

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Escalation and Challenge Protocol.


Self-Neglect at a Glance (SCIE)

7 Minute Briefings (Adults AP, AS and AT)

What to do about self neglect – Animation (North East ADASS)

Tissue Viability Service: Referral Criteria and Referral Form (for people of all ages with a wide variety of complex wounds, including pressure ulcers, leg ulcers and surgical wounds).

Self Neglect Guidance for Multi Agency Partners (South Tyneside Safeguarding Adults Board – a PDF version of this guidance if required).

November 2023: This multi agency guidance for staff is new. It explains how to support someone who is self-neglecting or hoarding.

1. Introduction

The purpose of this toolkit is to develop practice guidance for a range of multi-agency professionals to use, when supporting someone who is self-neglecting or hoarding. Through a review of the current self-neglect process, there has been some identified learning that can be applied in the development of this toolkit. This Toolkit can be used by any multi-agency partner.

The Care and Support Statutory Guidance clarified the relationship between self-neglect and safeguarding and has now made self-neglect a category of harm, about which the Local Authority has a duty to make enquiries and to assess need with the promotion of well-being at the heart.

In further received from the Department of Health and Social Care stated that self-neglect is the responsibility of safeguarding boards in terms of ensuring that policies and procedures underpin work around people who self-neglect, balancing, self-determination, robust mental capacity assessment, consent and protection. It does not mean that each case of self-neglect must progress to a Section 42 enquiry, but that each case must receive an appropriate response.

Engaging with, assessing and providing support to such people can be complex and frustrating and often requires a clear understanding of the law, to ensure actions taken are defensible. Many dedicated, compassionate practitioners are left struggling with cases, feeling alone and isolated.

In 2011, the Law Commission undertook a series of scoping studies in adult social care. This identified a historic lack of understanding of self-neglect, resulting in inconsistent approaches to support and care. In an effort to address this, the Care and Support Statutory Guidance formally recognises self-neglect as a category of abuse and neglect – and within that category identifies hoarding.

This means that the need locally for a consistent approach is key in ensuring that multi-agency professionals work together, to ensure that people who self-neglect have the right support, which is timely and in a proportionate and preventative way.

2. The Local Picture

Year Number of Safeguarding Concerns Raised Number of Section 42 Enquiries Number Relating to Self-Neglect No/Outcome of Cases Submitted for SAR
2019/20 952 787 32 3
2020/21 1072 478 26 13
2021/22 1084 361 32 13
2022/23 1312 346 69 6

Self-neglect became a domain of abuse within the Care Act 2014. However, how self-neglect differs from other domains of abuse, is that there is no other person inflicting self-neglect on the individual in an abusive way – therefore there is no alleged perpetrator only the individual themselves.

For social workers, this provides a significant challenge in developing relationships that empower the individual, or safety plans based upon what makes a person feel safe and well cared for, yet respect autonomous decision making, whilst juggling other duties and responsibilities.

It is important to explore the person’s history; listen to the way they talk about their life, difficulties and strategies they have developed for self-protection. By doing this, social workers and health professionals can begin assessing why the person self-neglects and begin to offer support in replacing attachment objects, with interaction and relationships with people and the community. Distress may have led people to seek comfort in having possession; when faced with isolation they may seek proximity to things they’re attached to and when faced with chaos may seek to preserve predictability.

Early relationships can have quite an effect on how a person perceives the world and may not recognise their self-neglect – and may even find comfort in their situation. Deep-seated emotional issues, which have evolved as coping strategies cannot be undone in an instant.

 3. What is Self Neglect?

Self-neglect manifests itself in different ways. It might be that a person is physically or mentally unwell or has a disorder and cannot meet their own care needs as a result. They may have suffered trauma or loss or be receiving inappropriate support from a carer. The person may not recognise the level of self-neglect. The foundations of self-neglect can begin with trauma and loss, parental attachment and control issues and information processing deficits.

Self-neglect can also occur as a result of cognitive impairment, dementia, brain damage, depression or psychotic disorders. It may be down to substance use, including misuse of prescribed medications.

3.1  Types of Self-Neglect

  • Lack of self-care to an extent that it threatens personal health and safety;
  • Neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings;
  • Inability to avoid self-harm;
  • Failure to seek help or access services to meet health and social needs;
  • Inability or unwillingness to manage one’s personal affairs.

3.2 Indicators of self-neglect

(Click on the image to enlarge)

3.3 Self-neglect and children

The self-neglect in adults can impact upon children, and present as a form of child abuse that occurs when a child’s basic needs are not met by their caregivers. This can include lack of food, clothing, hygiene, medical care, education, or supervision for children and result in parent(s) being unable to their child’s emotional needs. This can be because of mental health issues, substance or alcohol misuse, self-harm, loss and grief or any form of past and current trauma.

Practitioners should always be aware of the impact of adult self- neglect on any children living within the family home and if they  are worried about a child, submit the relevant safeguarding children concerns as per guidance provided in the Safeguarding Children Partnership, Referral Guidance.

Further information can also be found at: Working Together to Safeguarding Children

3.4 Obesity / malnourishment and links to self-neglect

There is an interface between obesity or malnourishment and self-neglect, which identifies some key issues for practitioners:

In cases of self-neglect where the person is plus size or malnourished, staff should consider any possible underlying causes, or disabilities which may be interfering with the person’s ability and/or choice to engage with care and support.
Cooperation, collaboration and communication between professionals specialised in working with disability and those working in obesity/malnourishment services which can help lead to improved prevention, early detection and treatment for people.
Health and Social Care providers need to identify and understand the barriers that people with disabilities and obesity/malnourishment may face in access to health and preventative services and make efforts to address them before assuming that the person is ‘refusing’.
Health and social care providers need to adjust policies, procedures, staff training and service delivery to ensure that services are easily and effectively accessed by people with disabilities and obesity/malnourishment. This needs to include addressing problems in understanding and communicating health needs, access to transport and buildings, and tackling discriminatory attitudes among health care staff and others, to ensure that people are offered the best possible opportunity of engaging with services.
It may be that the person is able to engage in a conversation about a mental health or physical health problem when they do not feel able to talk about their obesity/ malnourishment. This may be due to concerns about stigma, embarrassment or worries that professionals may seek interventions that they are not ready to access. Engaging the person to work on the issues they see as important is essential to developing a longer-term relationship.
There should be active support for obese/malnourished individuals to live independent and healthy lives. It is important that health promotion initiatives recognise the limits of information-giving and the need for whole communities to be included in tackling discrimination, to allow people to have the confidence to accept support and join in with community activities.

4. Roles and Responsibilities

Service Examples of how agencies can support someone who is self-neglecting
Clinical Psychology can support people who self-neglect by developing psychological understanding of their situation and helping them find strategies to help manage their situation, including psychological therapy.
Community nurses provide healthcare to people in their own homes. They will refer to other services, such as the continence or respiratory service, or for specialist equipment such as profiling beds.
Environmental health …aims to reduce the risk to the self-neglecting person themselves, but also the wider community through practical direct work with the person, invoking any relevant legislation where necessary.
Fire and Rescue Services can provide fire safety advice, including hoarding, and put practical measures in place to reduce the risk of a fire. They may refer on to other agencies for more support.
General Practitioners (GPs) can identify people who seem to be self-neglecting, provide support and advice and refer to other agencies such as mental health, to enable people to get support and assistance if required.
Hospital nurses …will identify patients who seem to be self-neglecting, support the patient and refer to other agencies to enable potential to gain help and support required, within and following their stay in hospital
Housing can help people practically to support their tenancies to avoid the risk of being evicted, due to problems with self-neglect. Housing will refer to other agencies if required, for example the Fire Service, Assistive Technology etc.
Advocacy support the person to make their own decisions, ensure their views, wishes, feelings, beliefs and values are listened to, and may challenge decisions that they feel are not in the person’s best interests.
Occupational therapists work with individuals to identify any difficulties they experience in day to day living activities, finding ways to help individuals resolve them. They support independence where possible and safety within the community, to help build confidence and motivation.
Paramedics are called by the person or a third party caller due to medical concerns or health deterioration. They will deliver appropriate emergency treatment, assess mental capacity in relation to the health issues presented (particular around refusal to go to hospital) and refer on to other agencies with concerns.
Physiotherapists can help with treatment of injury, disease or disorders through physical methods and interventions. A Physio helps and guides patients, prescribes treatment and orders equipment. They can refer to other services if required.
Police can investigate and prosecute if there is a risk of wilful neglect, they can provide safeguarding to families and communities by sharing information, refer to specialist partner agencies and use force to gain entry/access of there are legal grounds to do so.
Probation will identify problems via home visits and provide regular monitoring. They may refer to social services, mental health, housing and health. They will complete risk assessments and risk management plans, making links to the risk of serious harm.
RSPCA/LA/Animal Welfare Services investigate complaints of cruelty to and neglect to animals and offer support and advice.
Social workers …will complete assessments by talking to and getting to know the person. They may establish their mental capacity to make a particular decision about their lives and consider all options available. They may put in support or care or refer to other agencies. They may arrange multi-agency meetings and will rely on sign up from partner agencies regarding this. They can help with relationship building, communication skills and try to develop social networks for the person who is self-neglecting.
Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector organisations staff and volunteers can provide a whole range of social opportunities and support, to support people to connect with their peers and communities. This includes clubs, support groups, foodbanks and faith led support services. Staff and volunteers from this sector are a vital part of the formal and informal planned care and support for people who self-neglect.
Mental health outreach team can provide specialist mental health related to support to people who self-neglect in their own homes. This includes practical support, active support and will aim to promote independence and choice, linking in with other services and sharing information.
Red Cross …can provide short term support in the home for people after a hospital admittance following an accident, illness or during a personal crisis.
Hospital Discharge Social Care can assess and plan care and support for people who are admitted to hospital, so that when the person is discharged, this is as safe a journey as possible for the person who is self-neglecting. This includes completing capacity and risk assessments, as well as information sharing with the wider MDT.
Welfare rights …can support the person who is self-neglecting to maximise their income, which may have a positive impact on their ability to self-care and emotional wellbeing.
Drug and alcohol services can provide support, advice, counselling and ensuring the person who is self-neglect access the appropriate level of health and social care support. This in addition to supporting the person if they have a drug or alcohol problem which may impact on their ability to self care.
Reablement / intermediate care can support if someone is self-neglecting due to an acute problem, by providing short term support to re-enable and promote independence.


Safeguarding is Everyone’s Responsibility and all professionals can undertake assessments, informed by multi-agency meetings where appropriate.

5. The Legal Perspective

5.1 Legal Options in Relation to Self-Neglect

There are many legislative responsibilities placed on agencies to intervene in or be involved in some way with the care and welfare of adults who are believed to be vulnerable.

It is important that everyone involved thinks proactively and explores all potential options and wherever possible, the least restrictive option e.g. a move of the person permanently to smaller accommodation where they can cope better and retain their independence.

The following outlines a summary of the powers and duties that may be relevant and applicable steps that can be taken in cases of dealing with persons who are self-neglecting and/or living in dirty and unpleasant conditions. The following is not necessarily an exhaustive list of all legislative powers that may be relevant in any particular case. Cases may involve user of a combination of the following exercise of legislative powers.

The tenant is responsible for the behaviour of everyone who is authorised to enter the property.

There may also be circumstances in which a person’s actions amount to anti-social behaviour under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Section 2(1)(c) of the Act introduced the concept of “housing related nuisance”, so that a direct or indirect interference with housing management functions of a provider or local authority, such as preventing gas inspections, will be considered as anti-social behaviour. Injunctions which compel someone to do or not do specific activities, may be obtained under Section 1 of the Act. They can be used to get the tenant to clear the property or provide access for contractors. To gain an injunction, the landlord must show that, on the balance of probabilities, the person is engaged or threatens to engage in antisocial behaviour, and that it is just and convenient to grant the injunction for the purpose of preventing an engagement in such behaviour. There are also powers which can be used to require a tenant to cooperate with a support service to address the underlying issues related to their behaviour.

Environmental Health

Environmental Health Officers in the Local Authority have wide powers/duties to deal with waste and hazards. They will be key contributors to cross departmental meetings and planning and in some cases, e.g. where there are no mental health issues, no issues regarding the mental capacity of the person concerned, and no other social care needs, then they may be the lead agency and act to address the physical environment.

Remedies available under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 include:

  • Litter clearing notice where land open to air is defaced by refuse (section 92a);
  • Abatement notice where any premise is in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance (sections 79/80)

Other duties and powers exist as follows:

  • Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides the power to seek orders for repairs to privately owned dwellings and where necessary compulsory purchase orders. The Housing Act 2004 allows enforcement actions where either a category 1 or category 2 hazard exists in any building or land posing a risk of harm to the health or safety of any actual or potential occupier or any dwelling or house in multiple occupation (HMO). Those powers range from serving an improvement notice, taking emergency remedial action, to the making of a demolition order. Local Authorities have a duty to take action against occupiers of premises where there is evidence of rats or mice, under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949;
  • The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 Section 46, sets out restrictions in order to control the spread of disease, including use of infected premises, articles and actions that can be taken regarding infectious persons.


These powers could apply in Extra Care Sheltered Schemes, Independent Supported Living, private-rented or supported housing tenancies. It is likely that the housing provider will need to prove the tenant has mental capacity, in relation to understanding their actions before legal action will be possible. If the tenant lacks capacity, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 should be used.

In extreme cases, a landlord can take action for possession of the property for breach of a person’s tenancy agreement, where a tenant fails to comply with the obligation to maintain the property and its environment to a reasonable standard. This would be under either Ground 1, Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1985  (secure tenancies) or Ground 12, Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 (assured tenancies).

The tenant is responsible for the behaviour of everyone who is authorised to enter the property.

Mental Health Act 1983

Sections 2 and 3 Mental Health Act 1983: Where a person is suffering from a mental disorder (as defined under the Act) of such a degree, and it is considered necessary for the patient’s health and safety or for the protection of others, they may be compulsorily admitted to hospital and detained there under Section 2 for assessment for 28 days. Section 3 enables such a patient to be compulsorily admitted for treatment.

 Section 7 Mental Health Act 1983: A Guardianship Order may be applied for where a person suffers from a mental disorder, the nature or degree of which warrants their reception into Guardianship (and it is necessary in the interests of the welfare of the patient or for the protection of other persons). The person named as the Guardian may be either a local social services authority or any applicant.

A Guardianship Order confers upon the named Guardian the power to require the patient to reside at a place specified by them; the power to require the patient to attend at places and times so specified for the purpose of medical treatment, occupation, education or training; and the power to require access to the patient to be given, at any place where the patient is residing, to any registered medical practitioner, approved mental health professional or other person so specified.

In all three cases outlined above (i.e. Schedule 2, 3 and 7), there is a requirement that any application is made upon the recommendations of two registered medical practitioners.

Section 135 Mental Health Act 1983: Under Section 135, a Magistrate may issue a warrant where there may be reasonable cause to suspect that a person believed to be suffering from mental disorder, has or is being ill-treated, neglected or kept otherwise than under proper control; or is living alone unable to care for themselves. The warrant, if made, authorises any constable to enter, if need be by force, any premises specified in the warrant in which that person is believed to be, and, if thought fit, to remove them to a place of safety.

Section 135 lasts up to 36 hours (it’s usually 24 hours and in certain circumstances a Doctor can extend by 12 hours) and is for the purpose of removing a person to a place of safety with a view to the making of an assessment regarding whether or not Section 2, 3 or 7 of the Mental Health Act should be applied.

Section 136 Mental Health Act 1983 allows Police Officers to remove adults who are believed to be “suffering from mental disorder and in immediate need of care and control” from a public place of safety for up to 24 hours for the specified purposes, with the option to extend for 12 hours. The place of safety could be a police station or hospital.

Mental Capacity Act 2005

The powers to provide care to those who lack capacity are contained in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.  Professionals must act in accordance with guidance given under the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice when dealing with those who lack capacity and the overriding principle is that every action must be carried out in the best interests of the person concerned.

Where a person who is self-neglecting and/or living in squalor and does not have the capacity to understand the likely consequences of refusing to cooperate with others and allow care to be given to them and/or clearing and cleaning of their property, a best interest decision can be made to put in place arrangements for such matters to be addressed. A best interest decision should be taken formally with professionals involved and anyone with an interest in the person’s welfare, such as members of the family.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides that the taking of those steps needed to remove the risks and provide care will not be unlawful, provided that the taking of them does not involve using any methods of restriction that would deprive that person of their liberty. However, where the action requires the removal of the person from their home, then care needs to be taken to ensure that all steps taken are compliant with the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act. Consideration needs to be given to whether or not any steps to be taken require a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards  application (see Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards chapter). In addition consideration needs to be given to S47 of the Care Act whereby the Local Authority needs to have taken reasonable steps to mitigate/prevent the loss or damage of a person’s property and/or belongings.

Where an individual resolutely refuses to any intervention, will not accept any amount of persuasion, and the use of restrictive methods not permitted under the Act are anticipated, it will be necessary to apply to the Court of Protection for an order authorising such protective measures. Any such applications would be made by the person’s care manager who would need to seek legal advice and representation to make the application.

Section 44 Mental Capacity Act 2005 created an offence of ill-treating or wilfully neglecting a person who lacks capacity, or whom the offender reasonably believes to lack capacity. The offence may only be committed by certain persons who have a caring or other specified responsibility for the person who lacks capacity. The penalties are, on summary, conviction up to 12 months imprisonment, a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both, or on conviction on indictment of up to 5 years imprisonment or a fine or both.

Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 states that the right to private life protects people’s well-being and autonomy, including: people living free from abuse or neglect (including self-neglect).

Court of Protection

You can apply to the Court of Protection to get an urgent or emergency court order in certain circumstances, e.g. a very serious situation when someone’s life or welfare is at risk and a decision has to be made without delay. You won’t get a court order unless the court decides it’s a serious matter with an unavoidable time limit.  Where an emergency application is considered to be required, relevant legal advice must be sought.

Power of Entry

The Police can gain entry to a property if they have information that a person inside the property was ill or injured with the purpose of saving life and limb. This is a power under Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Inherent Jurisdiction

There have been cases where the Courts have exercised what is called the ‘inherent jurisdiction’ to provide a remedy where it has been persuaded that is necessary, just and proportionate to do so, even though the person concerned has mental capacity. See also Mental Capacity chapter

In some cases of self-neglect, there may be evidence of some undue influence from others who are preventing public authorities and agencies from engaging with the person concerned and thus preventing the person from addressing issues around self-neglect and their environment in a positive way.

Where there is evidence that someone who has capacity is not necessarily in a position to exercise their free will due to undue influence, then it may be possible to obtain orders by way of injunctive relief that can remove those barriers to effective working. Where the person concerned has permitted another reside with them and that person is causing or contributing to the failure of the person to care for themselves or their environment, it may be possible to obtain an Order for their removal or restriction of their behaviours towards the person concerned.

In all such cases legal advice should be sought.

 Animal welfare

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 can be used in cases of animal mistreatment or neglect. The Act makes it against the law to be cruel to an animal and the owner must ensure the welfare needs of the animal are met. Powers range from providing education to the owner, improvement notices, and fines through to imprisonment. The powers are usually enforced by the RSPA, Environmental Health or DEFRA.


The Fire and Rescue Service pathway states that if 3 or more of these factors are present a request / referral for a safe and well check should be made to

Age Behaviours Vulnerabilities
Occupiers over 65 ·  Smoking

·  Smokes where sleeps

·  Clutter/Hoarding level 4 and over

·  Previous fires/burn marks

·  Alcohol and Substance Misuse

·  Emollients and paraffin based creams

·     Lives Alone

·     Restricted Mobility

·     Immobile

·     Sensory Impairments

 6. Mental Capacity and Self Neglect

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides a statutory framework for people who lack capacity to make decisions for themselves. The Act has 5 statutory principles and these are the values which underpin the legal requirements of the act. They are:

  • A person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity;
  • A person is not to be treated as unable to decide unless all practical steps have been taken without success;
  • A person is not to be treated as unable to decide merely because they make an unwise decision;
  • An act done or decision made, under the Act on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done, or made, in their best interests;
  • Before the act is done or the decision is made, regard must be had to whether the purpose for which it is needed can be as effectively achieved in a way that is less restrictive of the person’s rights and freedom of action.

Where a person’s self-neglecting behaviour poses a serious risk to their health and safety, intervention will be required. With the exception of statutory requirements, any intervention or action proposed must be with the person’s consent. In extreme cases of self-neglecting behaviour the very nature of the environment should lead professionals to question with the person has capacity to consent to the proposed action or intervention and trigger a capacity assessment.

This is confirmed by the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice, which states that one of the reasons why people may question a person’s capacity to make a specific decision is “the person’s behaviour or circumstances cause doubt as to whether they have capacity to make a decision” (4.35 MCA Code of Practice). Consideration must be given where there is dialogue or situations that suggest a person’s capacity to make decision with regard to their place of residence or care provision may be in doubt.

Any capacity assessment carried out in relation to self-neglecting behaviour must be time specific and relate to a specific intervention or action. The professional responsible for undertaking the capacity assessment will be the person who is proposing the specific intervention or action and is referred to as the ‘decision-maker’. Although the decision maker may need to seek support from other professionals in the multi-disciplinary team, they are responsible for making the final decision about a person’s capacity.

If the person lacks capacity to consent to the specific action or intervention, then the decision maker must demonstrate that they have met the requirements of the best-interests “checklist”. Due to the complexity of such cases, multi-agency meetings to coordinate assessments may be required. Where the person denies access to professionals the person who has developed a rapport with the person self-neglecting will need to be supported by the relevant agencies to conduct capacity assessments.

In particularly challenging and complex cases, it may be necessary for the local authority to refer to the Court of Protection to make the best interests decision. Any referral to the Court of Protection should be discussed with legal services and the relevant service manager.

6.1 What is the difference between competency and capacity and why is this important when working with people who self-neglect?

Competency: To be competent means that the overall function of the brain is working effectively to enable a person to make choices, decisions and carry out functions. Often the mini mental state test is used to assess competency. In many people who have, for example, Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease or Huntington’s Disease, the first aspect of brain function affected is the executive function and unfortunately this is not tested very effectively using the mini mental state test.

Effective Function: The executive function of the brain is a set of cognitive or understanding/processing skills that are needed to plan, order, construct and monitor information to set goals or tasks. Executive function deficits can lead to problems in safety, routine behaviours. The executive functions are in the first to be affected when someone has, for example, dementia.

Capacity: Capacity is decision making ability and a person may have quite a lack of competency but be able to make a specific decision. The decision making ability means that a person must be able to link the functional demands, the ability to undertake tasks, the ability to weigh up the risks and the ability to process the information and maintain the information to make the decision. In some way, shape or form, the person has to be able to let the person assessing them know that they are doing this. Many competent people make what others would consider to be bad decisions but are not prevented from taking risks and making bad decisions. This is not a sign that a person lacks capacity to make the decision, just that they have weighed everything up, considered the factors and determined that for them this would be what they wanted. The main issue in the evaluation of decision-making capacity is the process of making the decision, and not the decision itself.

This is important because the first test of the capacity assessment states is there an impairment of the brain function or mind? Someone who hoards or self-neglects can take huge risks with their own health and often professionals assess the person as having capacity, as they are deemed competent. The person is therefore, deemed to not meet criteria for a capacity assessment and is said to be making poor decisions that are autonomous and therefore they are able to make this choice without professional intervention. If you are concerned then an assessment of the executive functions of the mind would support the capacity assessment in the functional aspect (Part 1).

The second part of the test should be directly related to Part 1. This means that a person can only be said to lack capacity if the reason for the inability e.g. to understand the decision to be made, weigh up the risks and positives of a situation, retain and communicate the decision, directly links to the functional aspect of the test or the impairment of the brain function or mind. If the first element of the test is not accurately assessed then this creates difficulty in understanding whether the person can undertake these decision making skills.

Decisions should not be broad decisions about care, services or treatment, they should be specific to a course of action. If a practitioner requires the consent, agreement, signature or understanding of the individual, then they should determine the capacity of the person to consent to that action using the assessment process defined in the Mental Capacity Act 2005. This may be for tenancy, individual treatment options, aspects of care offered, equipment required, access to services, information sharing or any intervention. If you understand the course of action being proposed and offered to the person, then you will be the person required to assess the individual’s the person, all agencies are responsible for developing questions for that agency to ask to determine their capacity as well as is practicably possible.

See also Executive Functioning Grab Sheet.

6.2 Practice examples

Housing: The Housing Officer will need to conduct and record a capacity assessment, where there is doubt about the person’s ability to provide consent. If the person is deemed to lack capacity to make that decision a ‘Best Interest’ decision must be made. A third party cannot sign a tenancy agreement on behalf of another person unless they have a Court Appointed Deputyship or a Lasting Power of Attorney that specified such actions under ‘finance’.

Health: If a health professional is proposing a course of treatment, medication or intervention, they understand the intervention proposed, therefore, they are the person to determine whether the person self-neglecting understands the intervention. If the health professional doubts the person’s ability to understand they must conduct (and record) a capacity assessment. If the person is deemed to lack capacity to make that decision a ‘Best Interest’ decision must be made. A third party cannot give consent on behalf of another person unless they have Court Appointed Deputyship or a Lasting Power of Attorney that specifies such actions under ‘welfare’.

Occupational Therapy: The Occupational Therapist (OT) understands the rehabilitative process/equipment required by the person to meet their needs. If the person does not appear to understand then the OT must assess the person’s capacity to decide about the proposed equipment.

6.4 Assessing capacity

See also Mental Capacity chapter.

7. Pathway for Self Neglect

View the Pathway for Self Neglect

8. When does a Section 42 (Safeguarding) Enquiry Occur?

In most safeguarding issues, the Care Act 2014 (Section 42) requires that each local authority must make enquiries, or cause others to do so, if it believes an adult is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect. This enquiry should establish whether any action needs to be taken to prevent or stop abuse or neglect, and if so, by whom.

Cases of self-neglect may not prompt a Section 42 enquiry. We invariably judge these on a case by case basis. Whether or not a response is required will depend on the adult’s ability to protect themselves by controlling their own behaviour. There may come a point when they are no longer able to do this, without external support.

It is key to establish a trusting relationship with a person who is engaging in self-neglect because restricting their autonomy can be harmful.

What professionals think an adult who self-neglects might hope and fear when they arrive in their lives:

I Hope that…
“They will listen to me” “They will provide support” “They will be respectful” “They will leave me alone” “They will help me”
“They will sort my problems out” “They will be sensitive and understanding” “They will see me as a person”
“They won’t disappear or change too frequently if I’ve got to know them” “They will manage my health and care needs”
I Fear That …
“I will lose my independence” “They will make me do things” “They will take my things away” “They will put me in a home” “There will be repercussions which I will not like”
“I will lose control of my life” “I will lose my identity” “I will be arrested or prosecuted” “I will lose my home” “They will judge me”
“They will make me feel distressed, upset and anxious” “They will evict me and I will be homeless”

Safeguarding duties apply to:

  • Any adult who has care and support needs (whether or not the local authority is meeting any of those needs); and
  • Is experiencing, or at risk of abuse and neglect (including self-neglect); and
  • As a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk or, or the experience of, abuse and neglect

The duties apply equally whether a person lacks mental capacity or not. So, while an individual’s wishes and feelings are central to their care and support, agencies must share information with the local authority for initial enquiries to take place.

Enquiries may take place even when the person has mental capacity and does not wish information to be shared, to ensure abuse and neglect is not affecting others, that a crime has not been committed, or that the person is making an autonomous decision and is not being coerced or harassed into that decision. Safeguarding duties have a legal effect in relation to many organisations and the local authority may request organisations to make further enquiries on their behalf.

Better Safe Than Sorry

The Care and Support Statutory Guidance identified that not all cases of self-neglect need to go to Section 42 enquiry – perhaps the situation is not impacting on the person’s wellbeing, does not impact on others, or is not a result of abuse or neglect.

It could be argued that someone self-neglecting is not going to share intimate details of themselves straight away. It can take time to develop trust and unless further enquiries are made (often requiring a multi-agency response to information gathering and capacity assessments) we may be leaving someone vulnerable, and making assumptions that cannot be justified later.

The purpose of a safeguarding enquiry (Section 42) is initially for the local authority to clarify matters and then decide on the course of action to:

  • Prevent abuse and neglect from occurring
  • Reduce the risk of abuse and neglect
  • Safeguard in a way that promotes physical and mental wellbeing
  • Promote choice, autonomy and control of decision making
  • Consider the individual’s wishes, expectations, values and outcomes
  • Consider the risk to others
  • Consider any potential crime
  • Consider any issues of public interest
  • Provide information, support and guidance to individual and organisations
  • Ensure the people can recognise abuse and neglect and then raise a concern
  • Prevent abuse/neglect from reoccurring
  • Fill in the gaps in knowledge
  • Coordinate approaches
  • Ensure that preventative measures are in place
  • Coordinate multi-agency assessments and responses

These responsibilities apply to people who hoard/self-neglect and whose health and wellbeing are at risk as a result. People may not engage with professionals or be aware of the extent of their self-neglect.

For social workers and health professionals, this provides a significant challenge in developing relationships that empower the individual, or safety plans based upon what makes a person feel safe and well cared for, yet respect autonomous decision making, while juggling other duties and responsibilities.

It is important to explore with the person their history; listen to the way they talk about their life, difficulties and strategies for self-protection.

By doing this social workers can begin assessing why the person self-neglects and offer support in replacing attachment to objects with interaction and relationships with people and the community. Distress may lead people to seek comfort in having possessions; when faced with isolation they may seek proximity to things they’re attached to and when faced with chaos may seek to preserve predictability.Early relationships can have quite an effect on how a person perceives the world and may not recognise their self-neglect and may even find comfort in the situation. Deep-seated emotional issues, which have evolved as coping strategies cannot be undone in an instant.

Trauma Informed Practice should be considered.

9. Top Tips

9.1 Myth busting

Myth Fact
Self-neglect is about hoarders Self-neglect includes lots of other factors, such as not managing personal care or medication, not paying bills or eating properly. Many people who hoard don’t self-neglect at all.
We (social worker, nurse, psychologist, occupational therapist, mental health team etc) can wave a magic wand. We can help but the person needs to engage with what is offered.
Medication and therapy can provide a quick solution. Improving wellbeing, quality of life or neglectful behaviour can take a long time.
Safeguarding will sort everything out (an easy referral can keep this person safe). It’s a team effort. It requires a multi-agency approach to work with complex cases.
If a safeguarding referral is made, the social worker can enter a person’s home and remove self-neglecting people from their property. Social workers are unable to remove someone from their property without consent or a court order or legally prescribed process.
People can be forced to engage in personal care tasks and have support from care agencies. Staff can ‘just do it’ for the person and fix the problem. A person has to consent to personal care being undertaken. If someone has mental capacity they have the right to make unwise decisions.
f a person refuses help, such as with de-cluttering or cleaning, we can force them to accept it. It is all about negotiation and understanding why they are saying no, and an attempt to reach a shared goal so some support can be delivered and the risk reduced.
Social workers can over-ride someone’s decision when they have mental capacity. They cannot, nobody can.
Social workers have powers of surveillance. They don’t.
Only doctors can assess mental capacity. A range of people can assess capacity, depending on how well they know the person and what the decision is that needs to be made.
Self-neglecting people are lazy and it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’. Situations can be very complex, and it may be choice in some elements of the adult situation, but not all.

9.2 Effective engagement

Ask the person to tell you a story about them or their past
Take not of objects around them, such as photographs and jewellery and engage in conversations about specific items
Ask them what helps when things get difficult
Find out information about the person’s past, and how this may trigger their behaviour in the present
Have an open and honest conversation and ensure their response has been acknowledged
Body language – don’t look shocked or uncomfortable, be open and positive, be mindful of your facial expression
Ask what their current concerns are
Ensure you display empathy
Consider how you would speak to the person if they were your friend
Look into the person’s support networks, including friends and family. Find out about any interests they have, or have had previously
Ask them what they would like to accomplish in the future
Go at the person’s own pace
Find out what the individual wants help with, this may not be related to their self-neglect
Be clear about what can happen
Encourage a deeper conversation, for example ‘what are the things working well in your life?’
Ask them what you can work on together to achieve what they want from their life
Set milestones, keeping them small and timely, for example ‘what hopes do you have for the coming week?’
Ensure you are in a location where the  person feels comfortable to talk, which may not always be at home initially
Offer an understanding statement, for example ‘I understand that the problem with your neighbours is really affecting you’
Write down some key points before entering the conversation
Identify the strengths in the person that you might highlight in your conversation and how some ideas on how they might draw on those strengths
Appreciate their circumstances and tell them you want to learn about them, such as asking about their strengths, abilities and preferences.

9.3 Professional curiosity

  • Offer to make a cup of tea, whilst doing so, see if there is enough food in the cupboards and fridge.
  • Ask to see where they sleep; is it easy to access? Are the sleeping arrangements appropriate for that person?
  • Ask if they feel safe living where they are. If they say ‘no’, explore why.
  • Find out how they keep themselves warm. Discuss heating arrangements.
  • Give the person time to answer the question. Allowing for silence when they are thinking.
  • Never make assumptions without talking to the individual or fully exploring the case.
  • Use your communication skills, review records, record accurately, check facts and feedback to the people you are working with and for.
  • Focus on the need, voice and the lived experience of the person.
  • Listen to people who speak on behalf of the person and who have important knowledge about them.
  • Speak your observations such as ‘I’ve noticed you’ve lost weight, have you been feeling unwell’?
  • Pay as much attention to how people look and behave as to what they say.
  • Build the foundation with the person before asking more personal and difficult questions.
  • Ask ‘How are you coping at the moment?’ ‘What helps when you are not feeling your best?’
  • Explore the person’s concerns. Don’t be afraid of asking why they feel a certain way.
  • Put together the information you receive and weigh up details from a range of sources and/or practitioners.
  • Ask yourself ‘How confident am I that I have sufficient information to base my judgements on?’
  • Question smoking habits, and consider fire risk at the same time, such as ‘Where in the property do you smoke the most?’ ‘Is it in bed or the living room?
  • Speak to the person about medications. Ask if they are taking medication and how they find it. Do they have side effects, are they taking it consistently?
  • Ask who visits and how long it has been since they had a visitor.
  • Ask if they are in any pain, and what they are doing to manage the pain?
  • Ensure the person feels listened to and valued. When ending the conversation, thank them for sharing with you.

10. Further Resources

Care Act 2014 Section 42 – Enquiry by Local Authority

Care Act 2014 Section 47 – Protecting Property of Adults

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1. Introduction – What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery is a serious and often hidden crime where people are exploited by criminals, usually for profit. It includes trafficking, slavery / servitude and forced labour.

In all types of modern slavery a victim is, or is intended to be, used or exploited for someone else’s gain, with no respect for their human rights. Criminals involved in modern slavery can be people who are working alone, those running small businesses or part of a wider organised crime network.

Adult victims are usually coerced or forced into modern slavery by use of threats, force, deception or by someone abusing their position of power over the victim. However, vulnerable adults (and children) cannot give their informed consent to be in such a position and therefore exploitation, even without any type of coercion, could still be modern slavery.

The scale of modern slavery in the UK is significant. Modern slavery crimes are being committed throughout the country and there have been increases in the numbers of victims identified every year. In 2021, the Home Office received 3,190 reports of adult potential victims via the Duty to Refer process (see Section 5, National Referral Mechanism and the Duty to Refer) compared to 2,175 in 2020. The most commonly referred nationalities in 2021 were Albanian (14%), Eritrean (12%) and UK (11%).

Modern slavery can be difficult to spot and often goes unreported. Staff working in social care, health, local authorities and any other role which comes into contact with the public could potentially see signs of modern slavery. Staff should be trained to:

  • understand the signs and indicators of modern slavery;
  • know how to take appropriate action; and
  • provide victims with protection and support, based upon their individual needs. It is essential that professionals recognise that those who were previously victims of survivors of modern slavery (known as survivors) may be at risk of re-trafficking and further harm and take action to prevent this. This is because they may be found by their previous exploiters or coerced by new exploiters.

Multi-agency working is vital to ensure that victims are identified, protected and safeguarded.

Modern slavery is an adult safeguarding concern, and the local authority has legal duties to provide support to suspected or known victims. Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, all modern slavery offences are punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. For modern slavery concerns regarding children please see the Safeguarding Children Procedures.

2. Types of Modern Slavery

Modern slavery includes the following:

  1. human trafficking;
  2. slavery / servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

2.1 Human trafficking

Human trafficking is where a victim is forced or deceived into a situation where they are then exploited. It involves the movement of people for exploitation, and can occur across international borders or within in a country.

The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings defines ‘human trafficking’ as:

“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Human trafficking involves three basic elements;

  1. action;
  2. means; and
  3. purpose of exploitation.

It should be seen as involving a number of actions which are all connected, rather than a single act at a particular point, as shown in the table below:

Elements of human trafficking in adults What this means
Action recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt, which includes an element of movement whether national or cross-border;
Means threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability;
Exploitation for example, sexual exploitation, forced labour or domestic servitude, slavery, financial exploitation, removal of organs (see below for more detail)

(taken from Modern slavery statutory guidance: how to identify and support victims, Home Office)

To be considered as human trafficking, a victim must be trafficked for purposes of exploitation. This can be:

  • sexual exploitation: in most cases of human trafficking for sexual exploitation purposes, victims will be female, but there are also male victims. Rape and violence are common, and victims are often tricked and given false promises of good jobs and economic opportunities.
  • forced or compulsory labour: victims have to work for little or no pay, and their employers will not let them leave or find another job. If they are foreign nationals, their passports may be taken by their exploiters so they cannot return home. They may also be forced to live in terrible conditions. Forced labour can take place in any sector of the labour market, including manufacturing, food preparation and processing, agriculture, nail bars and hand car washes.
  • forced criminality / criminal exploitation: victims are forced to commit illegal activities, including pick pocketing, shoplifting, begging, growing and cultivating cannabis, being exploited across different areas of the country known as ‘county lines’, benefit fraud, sham marriage and other crimes. The Modern Slavery Act states that victims who have been forced into criminality should not be prosecuted.
  • removal of organs: victims are trafficked for their internal organs (typically kidneys or the liver) to be taken (‘harvested’) to be transplanted in other people (who usually pay for the new organs).
  • domestic servitudevictims work in a household where they may be ill-treated, humiliated, made to work long and tiring hours, forced to work and live in very difficult conditions or forced to work for little or no pay. Victims of forced marriage can also be victims of domestic servitude.

2.2 Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour

As well as trafficking, modern slavery also covers cases of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Some people may not be victims of human trafficking (because they are not moved from one area to the other for the purposes of exploitation) but they can still be victims of modern slavery.

Slavery, servitude and forced labour are illegal in the UK.

For a person to be a victim of slavery, servitude or forced labour there must have been?

  • the means (being held, either physically or through threat – for example, threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability);
  • a service (a person has to have provided a service for the benefit of others – for example, begging, sexual services, manual labour, domestic service).

3. Identifying Victims

It can be difficult to identify victims of modern slavery; they are often reluctant to come forward, may not recognise themselves as victims or, because they are scared, they may tell their stories with obvious mistakes or leave some information out.

Some adults are more vulnerable to becoming victims of modern slavery, including:

  • young men and women;
  • pregnant women;
  • former victims of modern slavery (including people who do not consent to the National Referral System (see Section 5) who may be at risk of being re-trafficked;
  • people who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless;
  • people with drug and alcohol issues;
  • people who have learning difficulties, disabilities, communication difficulties, chronic developmental or mental health disorders or other health issues;
  • people who have experienced abuse before;
  • people in deprived / poor areas where there are few job opportunities are more likely to be recruited by traffickers, pretending to be recruitment agencies / genuine employers;
  • people struggling with debt;
  • people who have lost family or suffered family breakdown or have limited support networks;
  • people with criminal records who employers may not want to take on;
  • illegal immigrants who are not allowed to work and therefore do not have an income;
  • older people who are lonely and do not have much money;
  • people who speak no or very little English and / or cannot read or write in their own language;
  • overseas domestic workers.

3.1 Signs to look out for

Victims of modern slavery can be found anywhere. However, there are certain industries where they are more likely to be found such as nail bars, hand car washes, food preparation / processing factories, domestic service, farming and fishing, building sites and the sex industry.

The Modern Slavery statutory guidance (Home Office) provides the following indicators:

3.1.1 General Indicators

Victims may:  
Believe that they must work against their will Have false identity or travel documents for example a passport (or none at all)
Be unable to leave their work or home environment Be found in or connected to a type of location or venue likely to be used for exploiting people
Show signs that their movements are being controlled / feel that they cannot leave Be unfamiliar with the local language
Be subjected to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members and loved ones Not know their home or work address
Show fear or anxiety Allow others to speak for them when addressed directly
Have injuries that appear to be the result of an assault Be forced, threatened or deceived into working in poor conditions


Not be allowed to have the money they have earned Be disciplined / controlled through punishment
Be distrustful of the authorities Receive little or no payment
 Be afraid of telling anyone their immigration status Work very long hours over long periods
Come from a place where human trafficking victims are known to come from Live in poor or substandard accommodations
Have had the fees for their transport to the country of destination paid for by organisers of human trafficking, who they must pay back by working or providing services Have no access to medical care
Have no or not much contact with other people Only be allowed to have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment
Be unable to speak freely with others Believe that they must work until they have paid off the debt they are told they owe
Be dependent on their ‘bosses’ / facilitators Have believe the false promises of their bosses / facilitators.

3.1.2 Physical indicators

  • Physical injuries – with no clear explanation as to how or when they got the injuries or which are either not treated or only partly treated, or there may be lots of / unusual scars or broken bones which have healed.
  • Work related injuries – often through having poor or no personal protective equipment and health and safety arrangements.
  • Physical consequences of living in captivity, neglect or poor environmental conditions – for example, infections including tuberculosis (TB), chest infections or skin infections, malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies or anaemia.
  • Dental problems – from physical abuse and / or not being able to see a dentist.
  • Worsening of existing long term medical conditions – these may be untreated (or poorly treated) conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • Being disfigured – cutting, burning, or branding someone’s skin may be used as punishment or a way to show that an exploiter ‘owns’ the person.
  • Pain after a surgical operation – infection or scarring from organ harvesting, particularly of a kidney.

3.1.3 Psychological indicators

  • Expression – they may seem in fear or anxious.
  • Depression – they may have a lack of interest in getting involved in activities, in socialising with other people or appear to feel hopelessness.
  • Attachment and identity issues – they can become detached from other people or become over-dependent (or both). This can include being dependent on their exploiters.
  • Unable to control emotions – for example they may often swing between sadness, forgiveness, anger, aggression, frustration and / or emotional detachment or emotional withdrawal.
  • Difficulties with relationships – they may have difficulty trusting others (either have a lack of trust or be too trusting) which causes difficulties in their relationships and difficulties assessing warning signs in their relationships.
  • Loss of independence – for example they may have difficulty in making simple decisions, tendency to give in to the views / desires of others.

 3.1.4 Situational and environmental indicators

  • Exploiters keep victims’ passports or identity documents, contracts, any payslips, bank information or health records.
  • They have a lack of information about their rights as a visitor in the UK or a lack of knowledge about the area in which they live in the UK.
  • They act as if they are being coerced or controlled by another person.
  • They may go missing for periods.
  • They may be fearful and emotional about their family or dependents.
  • They may have limited spoken English, for example only being able to talk about being exploited and not being able to have any other topic of conversation.
  • They may be limited in where they can go (victims may not be ‘locked up’ but are not able to move around freely) or being held in isolation.
  • They may have their wages withheld (including deductions from wages).
  • Debt bondage – they may have to work until they have paid off a debt to the traffickers / exploiters.
  • They may have abusive working and / or living conditions, including having to work a lot of overtime.

3.2 Impact on Victims

Victims of modern slavery are forced, threatened or deceived into situations of humiliation and being under the control of their exploiters, which undermines their personal identity and sense of self. The impact of these experiences can be devastating.

It is important for all professionals to understand the specific vulnerability of victims of modern slavery and use practical, trauma-informed methods of working which are based upon basic principles of dignity, compassion and respect and which recognise the impact of trauma on the emotional, psychological and social wellbeing of people.

Victim’s voices must always be heard, and their rights respected.

4. Reporting Concerns

4.1 Taking action

Any worker who has concerns about someone who they think may be a victim of modern slavery should follow their organisation’s safeguarding adults procedures. When responding to concerns of modern slavery, the safety, protection and support of the potential victim must be the first priority. They may need emergency medical care. Only independent interpreters should be used. Never any other adults who are with the potential victims as they may (unknown to the member of staff) be associated with the exploiters and therefore may not tell the truth about the person’s situation.

4.1.1 Immediate risk of harm

If it is suspected that someone is in immediate danger, the police should be contacted on 999.

4.1.2 No immediate risk of harm

There are a number of options that can be taken:

  • the police can be contacted on 101;
  • the Modern Slavery helpline can be contacted: 0800 0121 700.

4.1.3 Adult Social Care

Victims of modern slavery are often adults who are at risk of, or who are experiencing, abuse or neglect, particularly when they have been rescued from a situation of exploitation. In this instance, local authority adult social care should be informed as soon as possible to identify whether a Section 42 (safeguarding) enquiry is required. A safeguarding referral to the local authority should be made with the cooperation adult victim, taking into account their needs and wishes.

Even where an adult has been removed from a harmful situation, they can be at risk of re-victimisation. Even if there is no immediate risk relating to safety or the person’s welfare, it is important to discuss any concerns with your designated safeguarding adults lead or the local authority safeguarding adults team and follow local safeguarding adults policies and procedures.

4.2 Seeking advice

You can seek advice on what action to take from your designated safeguarding adults lead, the local authority safeguarding adults team, the police public protection unit (contactable via the Northumbria Police switchboard) or the Modern Slavery Helpline.

5. National Referral Mechanism and the Duty to Refer

For further guidance and the online referral forms see:

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) provides a framework for identifying and referring potential modern slavery victims and ensuring they receive appropriate support.

Support for adult victims may include:

  • access to legal aid for immigration advice;
  • access to short-term Government-funded support through the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract (accommodation, material assistance, translation and interpretation services, counselling, advice, etc.);
  • outreach support if already in local authority accommodation or asylum accommodation;
  • assistance to return to their home country if not a UK national.

5.1 Referral or Duty to Notify

An online referral system is used for making referrals into the NRM and also for Duty to Notify (DtN) referrals.

Referrals into the NRM can only be made by staff who work for designated ‘first responder’ organisations (see Appendix 1 below).

Whether a DtN referral or referral into the NRM is made depends on obtaining the consent of the adult victim.

For an adult to be referred to the NRM, they must provide informed consent. This means they should understand what the NRM is, what support it can provide, and what the possible outcomes are if they are referred.

It should be presumed that an individual has the mental capacity to make a decision about whether to consent to entering the NRM.

When there may be concern about a person’s mental capacity to make a decision about whether or not to consent to entering the NRM, steps should be taken to try to support them to make the decision. Where a person does not have the capacity to consent, a best interests decision should be taken. Before a decision is taken in the best interests of an individual, it is vital to consult with any other agencies involved in the care and support of the individual. See Mental Capacity chapter.

If the adult does not consent to a NRM referral, a DtN referral should always still be made, using the online form.

5.2 Support for potential victims who do not consent

Adult potential victims who choose not to enter the NRM may still be eligible for other state support. They may still be:

  • at immediate risk of harm, in which case the police should be contacted by calling 999;
  • eligible for housing support through the local authority or for other support from the government where they have recourse to public funds;
  • entitled to make a claim for asylum or another type of immigration status or stay in asylum support if they have an active claim (where the person does not have the right to reside in the UK);
  • able to receive emergency medical care;
  • at risk of further exploitation, see Section 4.1.3, Adult Social Care.

Appendix 1 – NRM First Responder Organisations and Responsibilities

In England and Wales, a ‘first responder organisation’ is an authority that is authorised to refer a potential victim of modern slavery into the National Referral Mechanism. The current statutory and non-statutory first responder organisations are:

  • police forces;
  • certain parts of the Home Office; UK Visas and Immigration, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement and National Crime Agency;
  • local authorities;
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA);
  • Salvation Army;
  • Migrant Help;
  • Medaille Trust;
  • Kalayaan;
  • Barnardo’s;
  • Unseen;
  • BAWSO;
  • New Pathways;
  • Refugee Council.

First responder organisations have the following responsibilities – it is for the organisation to decide how it will discharge these responsibilities:

  • identify potential victims of modern slavery and recognise the indicators of modern slavery;
  • gather information in order to understand what has happened to victims;
  • refer victims into the NRM via the online process (in England and Wales this includes notifying the Home Office if an adult victim doesn’t consent to being referred – DtN);
  • provide a point of contact for the competent authority to assist with the Reasonable and Conclusive Grounds decisions and to request a reconsideration where a first responder believes it is appropriate to do so.
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1. Introduction

This includes 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. The potential impact of financial abuse should not be underestimated. It could significantly threaten an adult’s health and wellbeing.

According to the Office of the Public Guardian financial abuse is the most common form of abuse. Financial abuse can occur in isolation, but where there are also other forms of abuse, it is also likely to be a feature.

2. Indicators of Financial Abuse

Potential indicators of financial abuse include:

  • change in living conditions;
  • lack of heating, clothing or food;
  • inability to pay bills/unexplained shortage of money;
  • unexplained withdrawals from an account;
  • unexplained loss/misplacement of financial documents;
  • the recent addition of authorised signatories on a client or donor’s signature card; or
  • sudden or unexpected changes in a will or other financial documents.

This is not an exhaustive list, nor do these examples prove that there is actual abuse occurring. However, they do indicate that a closer examination and possible investigation may be required.

Financial abuse may amount to theft or fraud which the police should investigate. It may also require attention and collaboration from a wider group of organisations, including shops and financial institutions such as banks.

Where the abuse is by someone who has the authority to manage an adult’s money, the relevant body should be informed, for example, the Office of the Public Guardian for deputies and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in relation to appointees.

If there are concerns that a DWP appointee is acting incorrectly, the DWP should be contacted immediately. The DWP should inform the local authority where it is aware that the adult is already known to the authority.

3. Internet, Postal and Doorstep Scams

Internet scams, postal scams and doorstep crime are more often than not, targeted at adults and are forms of financial abuse.

These scams are becoming ever more sophisticated and elaborate. For example:

  • internet scammers can build very convincing websites;
  • people can be referred to a website to check the caller’s legitimacy but this may be a copy of a legitimate website;
  • postal scams are mass produced letters which are made to look like personal letters or important documents;
  • doorstep criminals call unannounced at the adult’s home under the guise of legitimate business and offering to fix an often non-existent problem with their property. Sometimes they pose as police officers or someone in a position of authority.

All of these scams constitute financial abuse as the adult can be persuaded to part with large sums of money and in some cases their life savings. Such scams should always be reported to the police  and local authority trading standards services for investigation. The SAB should consider how to involve local trading standards in its work.

These scams and crimes can seriously affect the health, including mental health, of an adult.

Agencies working together can better protect adults. Failure to do so can result in an increased cost to the state, especially if the adult loses their income and independence.

Where the abuse is perpetrated by someone who has the authority to manage an adult’s money, the relevant body should be informed – for example, the Office of the Public Guardian for deputies or attorneys and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in relation to appointees.

If there are concerns that a DWP appointee is acting incorrectly, the DWP should be contacted immediately, having the person’s National Insurance number, name and address is helpful to the DWP. But the important thing is to make DWP aware of the concern.

If DWP knows that the person is also known to the local authority, then it should also inform the relevant authority.

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Radicalisation is the process through which people come to support increasingly extreme political, religious or other views. This can lead them to support violent extremism and terrorism. Both children and adults can be vulnerable to messages of violent extremism.  If a practitioner has a concern that a child or adult is being exposed to extremist ideologies, they should follow the process set out in Sharing a Prevent Safeguarding Concern – Process to follow in South Tyneside.

Prevent is a Government’s strategy which aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism, in all its forms. Prevent works at the pre criminal stage by using early intervention to encourage individuals and communities to challenge extremist and terrorist ideology and behaviour. For more information see the Prevent Duty Guidance (Home Office)


Sharing a Prevent Safeguarding Concern – Process to follow in South Tyneside (opens in pdf)

Prevent Referral Form (opens in Word)

If you are worried someone might be radicalised (South Tyneside council website)

July 2024: an updated Prevent referral form – which should be used to share concerns and make a referral to the Prevent Team – has been added.

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1. Definition of ‘Honour’ Based Abuse

So called Honour-Based Abuse is defined as:

an incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse) which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and/ or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and/or community’s code of behaviour (Crown Prosecution Service).

It can be a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families or other social groups to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and / or so-called ‘honour’. Such abuse can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and / or community by breaking their code of ‘honour’, known as ‘izzat’.

Victims are usually girls or women, but not exclusively so. Men may also be victims. For the purposes of this chapter, however, it refers to adult women.

So called honour based abuse is a violation of human rights; it may also be a form of domestic abuse and / or sexual abuse or sexual violence. There is no honour or justification for abusing the human rights of others, nor can there be. There is no specific offence of ‘honour’ based crime. It is an umbrella term to encompass various offences covered by existing legislation.

2. Common Triggers

Behaviour by a woman (victims are usually young women, but not exclusively) which may be deemed by her family / community as breaching their code of ‘honour’ include:

  • wearing make-up or dress deemed inappropriate;
  • spending time without supervision from a family member;
  • being intimate with someone in public;
  • having a boyfriend, including loss of virginity;
  • having a relationship/s with males outside of the approved group;
  • being in a same sex relationship;
  • reporting domestic abuse;
  • rejecting a forced marriage;
  • leaving a spouse, seeking a divorce or refusing to divorce when ordered to do so by family members;
  • applying for custody of children following separation or divorce;
  • pregnancy outside of marriage.

Men may be targeted either by the family of a woman who they are believed to have ‘dishonoured’, in which case both parties may be at risk, or by their own family if they are believed to be homosexual.

So called honour based abuse is not a crime which is solely perpetrated by men; sometimes female relatives will support, incite or assist. It is also not unusual for younger relatives to be selected to undertake the abuse as a way to protect senior members of the family. Sometimes contract killers can be employed.

Shame may persist for a long time after the incident that was deemed to be dishonourable occurred. This may result in a new partner of a victim, their children, associates or siblings also being at risk.

3. ‘Honour’ Based Killings

‘Honour’ based abuse usually involves threats, intimidation and violence in an effort to get the victim to conform to the desired behaviour. These can escalate where deemed to be unsuccessful. On occasion, it may result in murder, which may involve premeditation, family conspiracy and a belief that the victim deserved to die.

In addition to information in Section 2, Common Triggers, incidents that may precede a killing include:

  • denied access to the telephone, internet, passport, friends;
  • house arrest and / or other excessive restrictions;
  • pressure to go abroad;
  • domestic abuse;
  • threats to kill or denial of access to children.

In some circumstances a victim’s immigration status may be used to dissuade them from seeking assistance from authorities, particularly if it is dependent on their spouse.

Victims may suffer in isolation, resulting in depression and attempt suicide.

4. Responding to Concerns about ‘Honour’ Based Abuse

When dealing with potential victims of so called honour based abuse, it is essential that professionals understand the seriousness of the situation and that immediate, but discreet, action is required.

If a woman discloses that she, or someone else, is at risk of ‘honour’ based abuse, the professional should:

  • speak with her in a setting that is confidential and where they cannot be overheard;
  • ensure that family members are not present;
  • take the disclosure seriously, and reassure her as such;
  • explain the limits of confidentiality and that a referral to the police and local authority will have to be made;
  • obtain sufficient information from her to make a referral to the Safeguarding Adults Team (see Local Contacts) and the Police;
  • agree method/s of maintaining contact.

See Stage 1: Concerns chapter

It is the responsibility of the police to initiate and undertake a criminal investigation as appropriate. This should be made clear during multi-agency discussions, as well as the roles and responsibilities of other involved professionals.

It is essential that women who return to their families are offered support. This should include escape plans and the option to deposit their DNA, finger prints and photograph with the police.

Professionals should ensure that they make a full record of all discussions, with whom these take place and any actions taken including referrals to other agencies. They should also inform their line manager who should sign off the discussions / actions (see also Case Recording chapter).

Victims are sometimes persuaded to return to their country of origin under false pretences, where the intention may be to either stop them from contacting the authorities or to kill them. If a woman is taken abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may assist in repatriating the woman back to the UK.

Professionals must not approach the family or community leaders, share any information with them or attempt any form of mediation.

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To see the guidance, click here:

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FOR PEOPLE DIRECTLY AFFECTED – If you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or you need help leaving a marriage you’ve been forced into, contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU).

In an emergency call the Police on 999.

1. Introduction and Definition

A forced marriage is one where one or both people do not – or in cases of people without mental capacity cannot – consent to the marriage, and pressure or abuse is used to force them to marry.

The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be:

  • physical: for example threats and physical violence or sexual violence;
  • emotional and psychological: for example, making someone feel like they are bringing ‘shame’ on their family
  • financial: for example taking someone’s wages.

Adults who lack the mental capacity to consent to marriage do not have to be pressured or abused for the marriage to be forced.

It is also a forced marriage when a person arranges for a child to get married before they are 18, even if they are not forced or coerced into doing so. Any concerns in relation to a marriage of a child under 18 years should be shared with Children’s Social Care (see Safeguarding Children Procedures).

Forced marriage can happen to both men and women, although most cases involve women and girls between 16 to 25 years. There is no ‘typical’ victim of forced marriage. They can be over or under 18 years of age, they may have a disability and / or may have young children or spouses from overseas.

Most reported cases have been linked with South Asian countries. However, there have also been cases involving many other countries across the Middle East, Europe, Africa and North America. Forced marriages can also take place here in the UK without overseas travel. In many cases forced marriage involves a potential partner being brought into the UK from overseas or a British person being taken abroad for the forced marriage, often without them knowing that they are going to be married. Forced marriage of any person, regardless of sex, age, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation, is illegal in the UK (see Section 6, Forced Marriage Offences).

Forced marriage is very different to an arranged marriage, which is where families of both the woman and man take a lead in the arrangements for the marriage, but they are free to decide whether they want the marriage to go ahead or not.

2. Reasons Given for Forced Marriage

People who force others into marriage often try to justify their behaviour as ‘protecting’ their children, building stronger families and preserving so-called cultural or religious beliefs. However, the act of forcing another person into marriage can never be justified on religious grounds: every major faith condemns the practice of forced marriage.

Some of the key motives given for forced marriage are:

  • to try to control someone’s sexuality (including alleged promiscuity, or being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) – particularly the behaviour and sexuality of women;
  • to try to control someone’s behaviour, for example, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, wearing make-up or behaving in what is seen to be a ‘westernised manner’;
  • preventing what is seen as unsuitable relationships, for example outside the ethnic, cultural, religious, class or caste group;
  • protecting ‘family honour’ (known as ‘izzat’, ‘ghairat’, ‘namus’ or ‘sharam);
  • responding to pressure from family, friends or their community;
  • attempting to strengthen family links;
  • in order to gain financially or reduce poverty;
  • making sure land, property and wealth remain within the family;
  • protecting apparent cultural or religious ideas;
  • making sure that there is someone to care for a child or adult with special needs, when parents or existing carers are unable to fulfil that role;
  • to help people from overseas claim for UK residence and citizenship;
  • long-standing family commitments.

3. Impact of Forced Marriage

Victims trapped in, or under the threat of, a forced marriage are often very isolated. They may feel there is nobody they can trust to keep this secret, and they have no one to speak to about their situation – some may not be able to speak English.

People who are forced to marry find it very difficult to leave the marriage, and women may be subjected to repeated rape (sometimes until they become pregnant) and domestic abuse within the marriage. In some cases, victims suffer violence and abuse from extended family members and are forced to do all the household jobs and / or are kept under virtual ‘house arrest’ and not allowed to leave the home without a family escort.

Both male and female victims may feel that running away is their only option. For many leaving the family can be very hard. They may have little experience of life outside the family and worry about losing their children and support network. Also, leaving their family (or accusing them of a crime, or asking the police or the council for help) may be seen as bringing shame on their ‘honour’ and on the ‘honour of their family’.  Those who do leave often live in fear of their own families, who may go to considerable lengths to find them and bring them back home.

Victims of forced marriage, their siblings and other family members are at risk of real harm – particularly if they are found to asked for help or are planning to leave the marriage.  Victims can face the possibility of ‘honour’-based abuse, rape, kidnap, being held against their will, threats to kill, being abducted overseas and even murder.

4. Adults with Care and Support Needs

Adults with care and support needs can be particularly vulnerable to forced marriage because they are likely to rely on their families for care, may have communication difficulties and do not have many opportunities to tell anyone outside their family about what is happening.

4.1 Supporting Victims with Learning Disabilities

The My Marriage, My Choice Toolkit includes practice guidance and tools to assist practitioners who are working with people with learning disabilities to recognise and take appropriate action when there is a risk of forced marriage

People with learning disabilities may lack the mental capacity to consent to marriage, others may have the capacity to consent, but they can be more easily tricked or coerced into marriage.

Key motives why families may force a person with learning disabilities to marry, include:

  • obtaining a carer for their son / daughter;
  • getting help to look after elderly parents;
  • obtaining financial security for the person with a learning disability;
  • believing the marriage will somehow ‘cure’ the victim’s disability;
  • a belief that marriage is a ‘rite of passage’ and necessary for all young people;
  • a fear that younger siblings may be seen as undesirable if older sons or daughters are not already married;
  • the marriage being seen as the only option and that there is no alternative.

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) provides a framework for making decisions on behalf of those who lack capacity to do so themselves. It sets out who can take decisions, in which situations, and how they should go about this.

The MCA starts from the basis that everyone has the capacity to make decisions. Where someone is found to lack capacity to make a particular decision, the Act says which other people can make those decisions on their behalf. Any decision must always be made in the best interests of the person who lacks capacity. However, there are certain decisions which can never be made on behalf of someone else, and these include the decision to marry or to have sexual relationships. Therefore someone cannot agree to marriage, civil partnership or a sexual relationship on behalf of a person who lacks the capacity to make these decisions themselves.

It is not just those people with learning disabilities whose mental capacity can be affected. People with a brain injury, dementia, Alzheimer’s and / or mental ill health can lack capacity. If a person does not consent or lacks capacity to consent to marriage, that marriage is a forced marriage, no matter what the reason for the marriage taking place.

4.2 Action when an adult with care and support needs is at risk of forced marriage

If an adult with care and support needs tells a practitioner they are going on a family holiday overseas and they are concerned about this, or a professional has their own worries about a holiday or other signs that a forced marriage is being planned, as much information as possible should be gathered. The practitioner should then:

  • discuss the case with the safeguarding lead in their organisation;
  • contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU);
  • if the person’s capacity to consent is in doubt, arrange to have their capacity to consent to marriage and sexual relationships assessed;
  • consider whether a communication specialist is needed if a person is hearing or visually impaired or has a learning disability.

Where an adult with care and support needs appears to be at risk of, or experiencing, abuse or neglect and unable to protect themselves, then a safeguarding concern must be raised so the local authority can make enquiries under Section 42 of the Care Act 2014 (see Safeguarding Enquiries Process section)

If the risk of forced marriage is immediate, emergency action to remove the adult from their home might be needed. Advice should be sought from the police and the local authority legal department.


  • Go directly to the person’s family, friends, or those people with influence within the community, as this will alert them to your enquiries and may place the person in further danger.
  • Attempt to be a mediator or encourage mediation, reconciliation, arbitration or family counselling.

5. Taking Action – Where there is a Risk of Forced Marriage or a Forced Marriage has Taken Place

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is available to talk to frontline professionals handling cases of forced marriage. It also offers information and advice on the wide range of tools available to tackle forced marriage, including how the law can be used in particular cases, what assistance is available to British victims in different countries and how to approach victims.

5.1 One Chance Rule

All practitioners working with suspected or actual victims of forced marriage should be aware of the “one chance” rule. This is that they may only have one opportunity to speak to a victim and may only have one chance to save their life. If the victim leaves the meeting with the practitioner without the appropriate support and advice being offered, that one chance might have been missed.

If someone discloses that they are in or at risk of a forced marriage, it should never be dismissed as just a ‘family matter’. For many people, asking for help from an agency is a last resort and so all disclosures of forced marriage must be taken seriously.

 5.2 Best practice in all cases

  • Wherever possible, see the person on their own, in a private place where the conversation cannot be overheard.
  • Gather as much information as possible to establish the type and level of risk to the safety of the person. Find out whether there are any other family members at risk of forced marriage or if there is a family history of forced marriage and abuse.
  • Contact the Forced Marriage Unit as soon as possible for advice, including whether a Forced Marriage Protection Order is appropriate (see Section 6.1, Forced Marriage Protection Orders).
  • If the person is an adult with care and support needs, concerns should be shared with adult social care as a safeguarding referral.
  • As forced marriage is a crime, it should also be reported to the police even if the adult does not have care and support needs. In an emergency call 999.
  • If the person does not want to return to the family home, then a strategy for leaving should be devised and personal safety advice discussed. Research shows that leaving home is the most dangerous time for women experiencing domestic abuse and this is often the case when someone flees a forced marriage.
  • A safety plan should be agreed in case they are seen, for example prepare another reason why you are meeting. Agree a code word with the victim to make sure that you are speaking to the right person.
  • If the person wants to stay at the family home and has the mental capacity to make this decision, try to arrange a way of keeping in touch without placing them at risk.
  • Refer the victim, with their consent, to local and national support groups with a history of working with victims of domestic abuse and forced marriage. (See the statutory guidance for details of support groups).
  • Advise the victim not to travel overseas.


  • Send them away.
  • Approach members of their family or the community – unless it involves a victim with a learning disability and you need to work alongside the family in assessing their mental capacity.
  • Share information with anyone without the victim’s clear consent, unless it is in the public interest or to safeguard a child.
  • Breach confidentiality – unless there is an immediate risk of serious harm or threat to the life of the victim or it is in the public interest.
  • Attempt to be a mediator or immediately encourage mediation, reconciliation or family counselling.

A multi-agency response is vital.

REMEMBER – Younger siblings might be at risk of being forced to marry when they reach a similar age. Consider speaking to younger siblings to explain the risk of forced marriage and give them information about the help available. Discuss the situation with your line manager, and share information with safeguarding children services (see Safeguarding Children Procedures).

5.3 Take a victim-centred approach – listen to the victim and respect their wishes whenever possible

There may be times when someone wants to take action that places themselves at risk. If this is the case, explain all the risks and consider if a referral to the safeguarding adults team is appropriate. Discuss it with your line manager.

6. Forced Marriage Offences

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England (Wales and Scotland) to force someone to marry.

This includes:

  • taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage actually takes place);
  • doing anything to force a child to marry before their eighteenth birthday;
  • being involved in the marriage of someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to marry (whether they are pressured to or not).

Forcing someone to marry can result in a prison sentence of up to seven years.

6.1 Forced Marriage Protection Orders

Anyone threatened with forced marriage or forced to marry against their will can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO). Relatives, friends, voluntary workers, police officers and local authority staff can also apply for a FMPO, see Apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order.

The order is to protect a person from being forced to marry. The details of each order will be specific to the case, for example the court may order someone to hand over the person’s passport or reveal where they are if they cannot be found.

Breaching a FMPO can result in a prison sentence of up to five years.

7. Information Sharing and Confidentiality

See South Tyneside Multi Agency Information Sharing Agreement

To protect victims of forced marriage, practitioners may need to share information with other agencies such as the police. Issues of confidentiality and information sharing are very important for anyone threatened with, or already in, a forced marriage – as they are likely to be worried what will happen if their family finds out they have asked for help.

All professionals need to be clear therefore about when confidentiality can be promised, but also when and how information may need to be shared.

If a decision is made to disclose information to another professional, the adult should be asked to consent to this. Most people will agree if they understand why it is important and are reassured about their safety (for example that the information will not be passed to their family) and what will happen following such a disclosure.

In some situations, including to safeguard an adult or prevent a crime, information can be shared even without the person’s consent. However, where possible, the person should still be told that their information will be shared.

8. Record Keeping

See Case Recording chapter

Keeping records of forced marriage is important. These may be used in court proceedings or to assist a person (particularly women who say that they have experienced domestic abuse) in immigration cases.

Staff should keep records of all actions taken, including the reasons why particular actions were taken. There should be a recorded agreement of which agency has agreed to each proposed action, together with the outcomes of the action.

Records should:

  • be accurate, detailed and clear, and include the date;
  • use the person’s own words in quotation marks;
  • document any injuries –.

Even if forced marriage is not disclosed, a record of the concerns may be useful in the future.

All records should be kept secure, and only accessed by staff directly involved in the case. This is particularly important for victims / potential victims of forced marriage, to make sure no one could pass on confidential information to a victim’s family.

If no further action is to be taken this should be clearly documented, together with the reasons.

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Safeguarding Enquiries Process


Female Genital Mutilation: Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance (Home Office, Department for Education and Department of Health and Social Care)

FGM Resource Pack (Home Office) – case studies, support materials and information on specialist organisations

Free E-Learning ‘Recognising and Preventing FGM’ (Home Office) 

Amendment – In May 2023 this guidance was rewritten to reflect the latest statutory guidance.

1. What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM?)

FGM is a procedure where the female genital organs are deliberately cut, injured or changed and there is no medical reason for this. It is often a very traumatic and violent act and can cause harm in many ways. FGM can cause immediate as well as long-term health consequences, including pain and infection, mental health problems, difficulties in childbirth and/or death (see Section 2, Consequences of Female Genital Mutilation).

The age at which FGM is carried out varies according to the community. The procedure may be carried out on newborn infants, during childhood or adolescence or just before marriage or during a woman’s first pregnancy. There is no religious reason, in the Bible or Koran for example, for FGM and religious leaders from all faiths have spoken out against the practice. The exact number of girls and women alive today who have undergone FGM is unknown; however, UNICEF estimates that over 200 million girls and women worldwide have had FGM procedures.

FGM has been classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) into four types:

  • Type 1 – Clitoridectomy: part or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris);
  • Type 2 – Excision: removal of part or all of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are the ‘lips’ that surround the vagina);
  • Type 3 – Infibulation: narrowing the vaginal opening by creating a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris; and
  • Type 4 – Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitals for non-medical reasons, for example pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterising (burning) the genital area.

Under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, FGM is a criminal offence and a form of violence against women and girls. This chapter, however, only references women. For information about FGM in relation to girls, please see the Safeguarding Children Procedures.

2. Consequences of Female Genital Mutilation

There are no health benefits to FGM. Removing and damaging healthy female genital tissue interferes with the natural functions of women’s bodies.

2.1 Immediate effects

  • severe pain;
  • shock;
  • bleeding / haemorrhage;
  • wound infections;
  • difficulty urinating;
  • injury to adjacent tissue;
  • genital swelling;
  • in some cases, death.

2.2 Long term consequences

  • genital scarring;
  • genital cysts and keloid (a thick) scar formation;
  • re-occurring urinary tract infections and difficulties in passing urine;
  • possible increased risk of blood infections such as hepatitis B and HIV;
  • pain during sex, lack of pleasurable sensation and impaired sexual function;
  • psychological concerns such as anxiety, flashbacks and post traumatic stress disorder;
  • difficulties with menstruation (periods);
  • complications in pregnancy or childbirth (including long labour, bleeding or tears during childbirth, increased risk of having a caesarean section); and
  • increased risk of stillbirth and death of child during or just after birth.

Personal accounts from survivors show that FGM is an extremely traumatic experience for girls and women, the effects of which remain with them throughout their life. Young women may feel betrayed by their parents, when they are involved in the decision to have the procedure, as well as feeling regret and anger.

3. Law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

In England (as well as Wales and Northern Ireland),  under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (‘the 2003 Act’) it:

  • is illegal to carry out FGM in the UK;
  • is illegal to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM, whether or not it is lawful in that country;
  • is illegal to aid, assist, guide or arrange the carrying out of FGM abroad;
  • has a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and / or, a fine.

3.1 Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders (FGMPO)

A FGMPO is a civil order which can be made to protect a woman against FGM offences or protect a woman against whom a FGM offence has taken place. Breaching an order carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

The terms of the order can be flexible, and the court can include whatever terms it thinks are necessary and appropriate to protect the woman, including to protect her from being taken abroad or to order giving up her passport so she cannot leave the country. See also: Making an Application for an FGM Protection Order (FGMPO) – Flowchart.

4. Risk Factors

The most significant factor to consider when assessing if a woman may be at risk of FGM is whether her family has a history of practising FGM. In addition, it is important to consider whether FGM is known to be practised in her community or country of origin.

As FGM is illegal and therefore not discussed openly, women who have undergone FGM may not fully understand what FGM is, what the consequences are, or that they themselves have had FGM. Discussions about FGM should therefore always be undertaken with care and sensitivity.

There are a number of other factors which could indicate a woman is at risk of being subjected to FGM.

  • a woman / family believe FGM is essential in their culture or religion;
  • the family mainly associates with other people from their own culture and has not mixed much with the wider UK community;
  • parents have limited access to information about FGM and do not know about the harmful effects of FGM or UK law;
  • a family is not engaging with professionals (health, education or other professionals).

Signs that FGM may have taken place include:

  • a woman asks for help or confides in a professional that FGM has taken place;
  • a woman has difficulty walking, sitting or standing or looks uncomfortable;
  • a woman spends longer than normal in the bathroom or toilet due to difficulties passing urine;
  • a woman has frequent urine, period or stomach problems;
  • a woman does not want to have any medical examinations.

If you have concerns, do not be afraid to ask a girl or woman about FGM, using appropriate and sensitive language. Women sometimes say that professionals have avoided asking questions about FGM, and this can then lead to a breakdown in trust. If a professional does not give a woman the opportunity to talk about FGM , it can be very difficult for the woman to bring this up herself.

5. Action in Suspected Cases

FGM is illegal in England and Wales, and professionals should act if they have concerns in relation to women who may be at risk of FGM or have been affected by it.  The type of safeguarding intervention needed will depend on how immediate the risk of harm is thought to be. The most appropriate course of action should be decided on a case-by-case basis, with input from all relevant agencies. The wishes of the woman should always be respected.

Action should include:

  • making sure the woman receives the care and support she needs, for example by offering referral to community groups for support, clinical intervention or other services as appropriate, such as a referral to an NHS FGM clinic;
  • making enquiries about other female family members who may need to be safeguarded from harm. This includes considering the needs of any unborn child if the woman is pregnant (see Section 6, Safeguarding Other Family Members); and / or
  • considering criminal investigations into the perpetrators, including those who carry out the procedure, to prosecute those who have broken the law and to protect others from harm.

5.1 When an adult has had FGM

Adult women who have had FGM should not be automatically referred to adult social care or the police. All cases must individually assessed.

Professionals should be aware that any disclosure may be the first time that a woman has ever discussed her FGM with anyone, so conversations should always be handed sensitively and the woman’s wishes respected. She should be given the time to speak, receive a non judgemental response and be offered details of local and national support groups.

5.2 Adult with care and support needs who has had or is at risk of FGM

When a woman with care and support needs is identified as having had or being at risk of FGM, adult safeguarding procedures should be followed (see the guidance in  Stage 1: Concerns). Where there is an immediate or serious risk, an urgent response may be needed, either an urgent referral to adult social care or contacting the police; a FGM Protection Order and / or an Emergency Protection Order may be necessary.

6. Safeguarding Other Family Members

Whenever a woman is identified as having had, or being at risk of, FGM professionals must consider whether she is at risk of further harm, and whether there are other girls or women in her family or wider social network who may be at risk of FGM.  Safeguarding children procedures should be followed where there are concerns in relation to children under 18 years.

7. NHS FGM Data Collection

NHS England collects the following data from NHS acute trusts, mental health trusts and GP practices:

  • If a patient has had Female Genital Mutilation;
  • If there is a family history of Female Genital Mutilation;
  • If a Female Genital Mutilation-related procedure has been carried out on a patient.

For more information please see NHS England – FGM Female genital mutilation (FGM) – NHS (

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1. Definition

1.1 Domestic abuse

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (DAA) provides a definition of domestic abuse.

It is the behaviour of one person towards another where:

  1. both people are aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other (see Section 1.3); and
  2. the behaviour is abusive.

Behaviour is defined as abusive if it consists of any of the following:

  • physical or sexual abuse;
  • violent or threatening behaviour;
  • controlling or coercive behaviour;
  • economic abuse;
  • psychological, emotional or other abuse.

It does not make any difference whether the behaviour is a single incident or consists of a number of incidents over a period of time.

Economic abuse is any behaviour by a person that has a negative impact on the other person’s ability to:

  • obtain, use or maintain money or other property (such as a mobile phone or car and also include pets);
  • buy goods or services (for example utilities such as heating, or food and clothing).

Under the Act, abusive behaviour towards a child who is under the age of 16 is considered child abuse, not domestic abuse (see Safeguarding Children Partnership procedures). Children are also recognised as victims of domestic abuse if they see, hear, or experience the effects of the abuse, and are related to the victim and / or perpetrator of the domestic abuse, or if the victim and / or perpetrator have parental responsibility.

Domestic abuse also includes ‘honour’ based abuse (see Honour Based Abuse chapter), female genital mutilation (see Female Genital Mutilation chapter) and forced marriage (see Forced Marriage chapter).

1.2 Controlling  or coercive behaviour

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. This also applies to people who are no longer in a relationship, but were previously.

Both coercive and controlling behaviour can apply to people who are no longer in a relationship, but were previously.

1.3 Personally connected

The Act introduced the term ‘personally connected’. This applies to people who:

  • are married to each other;
  • are civil partners of each other;
  • have agreed to marry one another or have a civil partnership (whether or not they are still planning to);
  • are or have been in an intimate personal relationship with each other;
  • have, or have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child;
  • are relatives.

2. Victims and Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse

The majority of domestic abuse is committed by men against women, however victims do not solely come from one gender or ethnic group. Men are abused by female partners, abuse occurs in same sex relationships, by young people against other family members or partners (teenage domestic abuse is the most common), as well as abuse of older relatives or those with physical or learning disabilities. Domestic abuse occurs irrespective of social class, racial, ethnic, cultural, religious or sexual relationships or identity.

3. Working with People where there are Concerns of Domestic Abuse

On average victims experience on average 50 incidents, and over a two and a half year period, before seeking support (see SafeLives).

Work with adult adults who are experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse should seek to:

  • support victims to get protection from abuse by providing relevant practical and other assistance;
  • identify those who are responsible for perpetrating such abuse, so that there can be an appropriate criminal justice response;
  • provide victims with full information about their legal rights, and about the extent and limits of statutory duties and powers;
  • support non-abusing parents in making safe choices for themselves and their children, where appropriate.

Professionals from any agency may receive a disclosure from a victim or perpetrator about domestic abuse, or have concerns that such behaviour may be taking place. All staff and volunteers working with adults and children should be familiar with signs of domestic abuse, and know how to respond to such a disclosure. The South Tyneside Safeguarding Children and Adults Partnership, and individual partner agencies as appropriate should ensure that training in relation to domestic abuse is provided for staff (see Safeguarding Training for Staff and Volunteers).

Concerns may also be reported by a member of the extended family, friend or neighbour for example. Such information must be responded to in accordance with these procedures.

Professionals in contact with adults who are threatening or abusive to them in their role as a worker, need to be aware of the potential for that individual to be also abusive in their personal relationships. They should, therefore, assess whether domestic abuse may be occurring within the family environment.

3.1 Carrying out assessments

See also SafeLives: Resources for identifying the risk victims face, including the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment (DASH) checklist.

When carrying out any assessment, professionals should consider seeing the adult on their own so they can ask them whether they are experiencing, or have previously experienced, domestic abuse. This may include asking direct questions about domestic abuse and asking whether domestic abuse has occurred whenever adult abuse is suspected. This should be considered at all stages of assessment, enquiries and intervention.

When assessing risks around domestic abuse and the needs of the adult living with domestic abuse, the following factors should be considered:

  • age and vulnerability of the adult;
  • the adult’s description of the effects of the abuse upon them;
  • frequency and severity of the abuse, how recent and where it took place;
  • whether there were any children or other adults who either witnessed the abuse or was in the property at the time;
  • any weapons used or threatened to be used;
  • whether the adult victim has been locked in the house or prevented from leaving;
  • has there been any actual or threatened abuse of animals used to threaten the adult;

The professional should decide, based on the assessment and their professional judgement as to whether there is a threat to the safety of the adult or anyone else in the home environment. If the threat is imminent, the police should be contacted immediately by telephoning 999. If there is a non-imminent threat to the adult, the professional should raise a concern. See Stage 1: Concerns.

Professionals should ensure that they make a full record of all discussions, including any actions taken and referrals to other agencies (see Case Recording chapter).

Under the Domestic Abuse Act the local authority has a duty to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation. In addition, all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance (see Homelessness: Legislation and South Tyneside Services chapter).

3.2 Police Action

The Police are often the first point of contact for adults experiencing domestic abuse. However the Ambulance Service and Accident and Emergency Departments may also often be involved as a first point of contact. All domestic abuse falls under the remit of the Northumbria Police Service, including cases involving 16 – 17 year olds.

Where an offence has been committed officers should arrest the suspect where there are reasonable grounds to suspect their involvement in the alleged crime and the conditions under Section 24 of PACE are met. The exercise of arrest powers will be subject to a test of necessity based around the nature and circumstances of the offence and the interests of the criminal justice system. An arrest will only be justified if the constable believes it is necessary for any of the reasons set out in Section 24(5).

Failure to arrest in appropriate circumstances may result in a neglect of duty or other failure in standards. Officers must fully justify any decisions not to arrest and clearly document their decision. This challenges, and holds, perpetrators to account for their actions. However, positive action also requires enhanced levels of victim care. The police strategy is that the safety of victims is paramount, particularly where children are involved and referral to independent advocates is part of police procedures.

5. MARAC Process

Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) are meetings where information about high risk domestic abuse victims (those at risk of serious harm or death) is shared between local agencies. Domestic abuse is a very complex issue and one agency alone cannot solve all the related problems and manage the associated risks in all cases.  By bringing all agencies together at a MARAC, a risk focused, coordinated safety plan can be drawn up to support the victim. (See also Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference chapter.)

In South Tyneside, the MARAC meets fortnightly, and is chaired by a Detective Inspector from the Police’s PVP (Protecting Vulnerable People) Unit. To make a referral into the MARAC, a Risk Indicator Checklist (RIC) needs to be completed.

6. Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

See also Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme factsheet (UK Government) and Northumbria Police – Clare’s Law

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (also known as Clare’s Law) is made up of two elements: the Right to Ask; and the Right to Know.

Under the right to ask, a person or relevant third party (for example, a family member) can ask the police to check whether a current or ex-partner has a violent or abusive past. If records show that an individual may be at risk of domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner, the police will consider disclosing the information.

Right to Know enables the police to make a disclosure on their own initiative if they receive information about the violent or abusive behaviour of a person that may impact on the safety of that person’s current or ex-partner. This could be information arising from a criminal investigation, through statutory or third sector agency involvement, or from another source of police intelligence.

7. Professional Safety

It is important to assess any potential risks to professionals, carers or other staff who are providing services to a family where domestic abuse is or has occurred. In such cases a risk assessment should be undertaken. Professionals should speak with their manager and follow their own agency’s guidance for staff safety. Such issues should also be discussed during supervision (see Supervision chapter).

8. Positive Outcomes

Positive outcomes for those affected by domestic abuse are achieved in many ways including:

  • successful prosecution;
  • reducing cases of repeat victimisation;
  • prevention through other means such as the Sanctuary scheme, civil remedies, re-housing; and
  • pro-active operations and referrals to support agencies.


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This chapter discusses ‘cuckooing‘, which is the term used when professional criminal gangs target the homes of adults who they have identified as vulnerable. It provides information about victims, perpetrators, signs and what action to take if cuckooing is suspected.


County Lines: Criminal Exploitation of Adults


County Lines and Cuckooing (Crimestoppers)

April 2024: This section has been updated throughout to reflect the latest Home Office County Lines guidance.

1. Introduction

‘Cuckooing‘ also known as forced home invasion, is when criminals (usually drug dealers) takeover the home of a vulnerable person, for example care leavers or people with addiction, physical disabilities or mental health issues. They then use the property as a base for their criminal activity, including dealing and storing drugs, storing weapons and / or money or as a base for sex work. Cuckooing is a form of criminal exploitation and is a common feature in county lines exploitation (see County Lines: Criminal Exploitation of Adults chapter).

2. Who is at Risk?

Adults at risk of cuckooing include:

  • people with drug or alcohol problems;
  • young people who are care leavers;
  • people already known to the police;
  • older people who live alone with no support network;
  • people who have mental or physical health problems;
  • people with learning disabilities;
  • female sex workers;
  • single mums; and
  • people living in poverty.

Victims are often people with care and support needs, even if they are not already receiving support from services.

Where the victim is known to use drugs, criminals often offer them free drugs in return for being able to use their home for dealing.

Once the criminals have gained control of the adult and their home, the victim is at significant risk of physical and psychological abuse, sexual exploitation and violence. Victims are often used as drug runners, forced to move drugs from one place to another on behalf of the criminals. They are threatened with violence if they do not agree (see also County Lines: Criminal Exploitation of Adults chapter).

Victims are unlikely to the police or tell other professionals what is happening, as they may be frightened that they will be suspected of being involved in drug dealing themselves or that they will face repercussions or punishment from the gang.

They may also be afraid that they could be evicted from their home. Some victims feel they are forced out of their homes, or are actually made to leave their home by the gang, which makes them homeless.

3. Signs of Cuckooing

3.1 Signs an adult is being exploited or abused

Signs that an adult is being exploited or abused include:

  • they get more telephone calls or people calling to their property than they usually do;
  • they have physical injuries that they cannot, or do not, explain;
  • they seem quiet and withdrawn;
  • they are known or suspected to be carrying or selling drugs;
  • they are going missing from home or college, work or work placements;
  • they have new clothes and / or possessions, more than one mobile phone or money than they can usually afford;
  • they start to miss appointments with services and do not respond to messages.

3.2 Signs of cuckooing in a local neighbourhood

All types of properties can be cuckooed including rental and private properties, student accommodation and commercial premises. Signs that a property has been cuckooed include:

  • unfamiliar people are entering and leaving the property, often throughout the day and night. In supported or shared accomodation, staff might notice an increase in key fob activity;
  • an increase in the number of people walking to the property or loitering in the area around it;
  • young people visiting the property;
  • an increase in the number of cars (including vehicles which have not visited before), bikes, or taxis or hire cars outside the property;
  • electric scooters and scooter helmets around the property;
  • an increase in anti-social behaviour and signs of drug use in and around the property, including litter and discarded needles or crack pipes for example;
  • an increase in noise and disturbance levels, including late night parties or arguments;
  • damage to the property such a broken windows or doors;
  • curtains and blinds which are always closed;
  • threats or intimidation towards other residents or neighbours.

Information about possible cuckooing cases can come from a range of different sources such as neighbours, partner agencies and the wider public. Professional curiosity is therefore important as information from different sources may need to be pieced together.

4. Taking Action

Where an individual is at risk of, or experiencing exploitation, it is a legal requirement that practitioners share that information with the relevant agencies. This may include sharing information without the adult’s consent where they may be being coerced or under duress, to prevent a crime being committed.

If a person is at immediate risk of harm, the police should be contacted by calling 999.

If the person is not at immediate risk of harm, staff should talk to the adult and then concerns should be shared with the local authority safeguarding adults team (see Local Contacts) and the police on 101.

This might involve a practitioner contacting the designated lead for safeguarding adults in their own organisation, who will then make a safeguarding adults referral; or, the practitioner can contact adult social care directly.

The local authority and partners agencies will then consider whether action is required to protect the adult victim. This may include a discussion about whether the person has care and support needs, if they have mental capacity (see Mental Capacity chapter) and if they do, whether the inherent jurisdiction applies in their case. This is when a person with mental capacity is coerced or unduly influenced by another person, in a way which restricts their ability to freely make their own decisions.

The adult should be at the centre of discussions and any decisions that are taken during the safeguarding or inherent jurisdiction process. See Making Safeguarding Personal chapter.

All concerns should be recorded in the adult’s records as along with details of all actions that have been taken and decisions that have been made (see Case Recording chapter).

4.1 Modern slavery and the National Referral Mechanism

If the adult has also been forced by a criminal gang to move drugs from one place to another, this is criminal exploitation and a form of modern slavery. The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) provides a framework for identifying and referring potential modern slavery victims and ensuring they receive appropriate support.

First responder organisations, which include the local authority and the police (see Modern Slavery chapter, appendix 1) should refer adult victims of modern slavery to the NRM if they give their consent to this.  Even if the adult does not consent to the NRM referral, there is still a ‘duty to notify’ the Home Office that a potential victim of modern slavery has been identified. Full details can be found in the Modern Slavery chapter.  Any referral to the NRM or notification to the Home Office should come after the appropriate safeguarding steps have been taken and multi-agency discussions have been held.

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1. Introduction

Adolescent to Parent Violence (APVA) is a hidden form of domestic abuse that still has no legal definition, however it is referenced within current government domestic abuse literature.

1.1 Definition

Domestic abuse is defined as:

Abusive behaviour that is: physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; controlling or coercive behaviour; economic abuse; psychological, emotional or other abuse. Applies to people aged 16+, who are personally connected to each other (Domestic Abuse Act 2021).

It is important to consider that APVA is likely to involve a pattern of behaviour.

Child to Parent violence (CPVA) encompasses children of a younger age:

Child to Parent Violence is any harmful act by a child whether physical, psychological or financial which is intended to gain power and control over parent /care giver (Cottrel, B. and Monk, P. 2004).

Behaviour considered to be violent if others in the family feel threatened, intimidated or controlled by child if they believe that they must adjust their own behaviour to accommodate threats or anticipation of violence (Patterson et al 2002).

It should be considered that due to there not being a government definition some organisations will categorise as APVA and some as CPVA. Within South Tyneside we will use CPVA to encompass children of a younger age range within intervention work and care pathways.

Whilst it is not unusual for adolescents and children to demonstrate healthy anger and at times there will be conflict with parents, it should be noted that there is a difference between healthy anger and abuse or behaviour which instils fear in their parents or carers.

Consideration should be given at all times to the level of violence or abuse for example:

  • is the abuse persistent;
  • is the abuse planned and deliberate; and
  • not a reckless act.

This procedure should be read in conjunction with the Care Pathway:

1.3 Following disclosure

Once a disclosure of APVA / CPVA is made the professional should complete the CPVA risk screening tool with the parent / carer, this will indicate the level of risk posed and inform the process that should be followed within the care pathway. In all cases where risks have been identified the emergency safety plan should be implemented with parent/carer. Where CPVA involves a victim who meets the Care Act 2014 safeguarding adult’s definition, adult safeguarding procedures should be followed accordingly (see the chapter on Responding to Signs of Abuse and Neglect).

Consideration should be given to other family members and the potential risks posed.

If you are worried about an adult, a referral to Adult Social Care should be considered (see Stage 1: Concerns).

2. Immediate Safeguarding Concerns

If an individual is at immediate risk of harm then police should be notified via 999, the high risk pathway should then be followed.

2.1 High risk

A referral should be made to children’s services; the parent(s) should be informed that a referral is going to be made and their permission sought to share information with other agencies unless there are concerns that to do so would:

  • Prejudice any investigations or enquiries;
  • Be prejudicial to the child’s welfare and/or safety;
  • Cause concern that the child would be likely to suffer Significant Harm as a result.

(see Worried about a Child?, South Tyneside Council)

On receipt of the referral, consideration will be given by children’s services regarding the threshold being met for Strategy meeting (see Strategy Meeting / Discussion, Safeguarding Children Procedures).

If the young person is over 16, a referral to MARAC by CFSC worker should be made.

Consideration should be given re referral to Impact Family Services to offer intervention to the parent.

Social worker and CPVA worker allocated to the family. The social worker should complete the assessment (see Assessment, Safeguarding Children Procedures).

2.2 Standard and medium risk

Consideration should be given to involving Early Help.

The police should be informed via 101 of the disclosure of APVA / CPVA.

If consent is gained from the parent / carer, a referral should be made to  the Impact Family services for intervention.

A CPVA worker can be contacted for advice where standard and medium risk has been identified.

Never assume that someone else will take care of the violence / abuse issues. You should seek confirmation that other professionals / agencies have acted in a way which you would expect. You may be the parent / carers / child / young person’s first and only contact.

Remember they can deny abuse is happening and minimise the risk and / or harm.  Discuss with your line manager, assess the threshold level and act accordingly.

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Northumbria Missing Adults Protocol– Guidance for police and partner agency staff about the joint response to adults at risk of or who have gone missing.

Hospitals Missing Adult Patient Protocol – Outlines the role of Northumbria Police in assisting NHS Trusts to locate and ensure the wellbeing of patients who have been declared missing and there is a genuine concern for their safety.

Herbert Protocol – A national scheme introduced by the police in partnership with other agencies which encourages carers and family members to record useful information, which could be used in the event of a vulnerable person with Alzheimer’s or dementia going missing.

Philomena Protocol – An initiative that helps locate and safely return a young person who is a looked after child (in care) as quickly as possible when they are missing (see also Transition to Adult Care and Support chapter).

Winnie Protocol – A Northumbria Police and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Safeguarding Adult Boards scheme to encourage carers and professionals to record useful information which could be used in the event of an adult going missing. It is differs from the Herbert Protocol as this can be completed for any adult who goes missing.

Northumbria Police Hostel Policy – This policy explains the process Northumbria Police will use to assess the most appropriate course of action when a person is reported missing from a hostel.  It explains the 8 criteria which will be used to determine whether or not the incident should be closed.

See also Missing Persons, Northumbria Police

November 2023: A link to the updated Northumbria Missing Adults Protocol was added.


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1. Introduction

Sections 20 and 21 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 are a part of the Government’s response to the public inquiry conducted by Sir Robert Francis QC into the events at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust (Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust  Public Inquiry, also known as the Francis Report). There were already offences in relation to the ill-treatment and wilful neglect of adults receiving treatment for mental disorder (under the Mental Health Act 1983) and of those who lack mental capacity. However, there was previously no equivalent specific offence in relation to those being cared for who had full mental capacity (see Mental Capacity chapter).

Under these sections of the Act, it is a criminal offence for an individual to ill treat or wilfully or deliberately neglect a person for whom they care, in their role of being a care worker.

‘Wilful’ means that the care worker has acted deliberately or recklessly in relation to the person who they are paid to care for.

‘Ill-treatment’ is also a deliberate act, where the individual knew that they were ill treating a person, or were being reckless as to whether they were.

Ill treatment and neglect are separate concepts. Ill treatment does not necessarily have to result in physical harm and can involve emotional and psychological damage – that the actions have caused or have the potential to cause to the adult and their family (see case law R v Newington1990, 91 Cr App R 254). It can also include a failure to protect the privacy and dignity of a vulnerable adult when the victim is unaware that they are being ill treated.

These offences apply to both organisations and individuals.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has a role to play as the regulator in setting standards and ensuring adults are safeguarded from abuse and improper treatment. CQC can prosecute registered care providers whom they have judged to have breached the standard. Criminal offences only apply to cases of wilful neglect where there is evidence of the worker or organisation acting or omitting to act deliberately, even though they know there is some risk to the adult as a consequence or because they do not care about that risk. Genuine errors or accidents by a care worker should not be caught within these offences.

2. Care Worker Offence

Under the Act a ‘care worker’ means an individual, who, is paid to provide health or social care. They may also be a director or be in a similar post within an organisation that provides health or social care.

‘Paid work’ means when a person is paid for carrying out care (see Appendix 1, Further Information, Paid work).

Health care includes all types of physical health or mental health care provided to adults. This also includes health care in relation to protecting or improving public health, and procedures that are similar to types of medical or surgical care but are not provided in connection with medical conditions which are excluded health care (see Excluded Healthcare) .

Social care includes all types of personal care, physical support and other practical assistance provided for people who need such care or assistance. This may because of:

  • age;
  • Illness;
  • disability;
  • pregnancy;
  • childbirth;
  • dependence on alcohol or drugs; or
  • any other similar circumstances.

This would not include a person who provided such care which was secondary to carrying out other activities.

A care worker found guilty of such an offence could receive a prison sentence of up to five years or a fine (or both); or for a less serious charge a prison sentence of up to 12 months or a fine (or both).

Unpaid family carers and friends cannot be charged with these offences. They may be investigated and charged under different legislation, however.

3. Care Provider Offence

The term ‘care provider’ means:

  • a corporation or association that provides and / or arranges health care (apart from excluded health care – see Section 2, above) or social care for an adult;
  • a person who is not the care provider, but provides health care or social care which has been arranged by the care provider, including where the individual does not provide care but supervises or manages those who do;
  • a director or similar post holder in an organisation which provides health care or social care;
  • a person who provides such care and employs or has arrangements with other people to assist them in providing such care.

A care provider commits an offence if:

  • a care worker who is caring for an individual (as part of the care provider’s arrangements) ill treats or wilfully neglects that individual;
  • if the care provider’s activities are managed or organised in a way which leads to a gross breach of a duty of care by the care provider to the individual who is ill-treated or neglected, and if that had not happened, the ill treatment or wilful neglect would not have occurred or would have been less likely to occur.

A person arranging for the provision of such care does not include someone who makes arrangements under which the provision of such care is secondary to carrying out other activities.

References made to providing or arranging the provision of health care or social care do not include making:

  • direct payments for community services and carers;
  • direct payments for health care;
  • direct payments for care and support.

4. Duty of Candour

See also Duty of Candour chapter

There is a requirement on health and social services to be open and honest with patients and service users when things go wrong. Professionals are expected to be candid with adults who use their services and their families when serious events occur and not obstruct fellow professionals who raise concerns.

The Francis Report recommends that healthcare providers must inform patients or other authorised persons as soon as practicable when they believe that the treatment of care provided has caused death or serious injury to that patient and provide information and explanation as the patient may reasonably request.

It also recommends a duty of candour on individual professionals to inform their employers where they believe or suspect that the treatment has caused death or injury. It is a criminal offence to obstruct a person in the performance of these duties or provide misleading information.

The Care Act includes a duty of candour as one of the requirements for providers registered with the CQC. All providers must act in open and transparent manner with adults who use their services and their families about their care and treatment.

There is also a requirement to notify and provide information and support to the adult or the person acting on their behalf where:

(i) an incident has resulted in or appears to have resulted in the death of an adult who uses the service ; or

(ii) caused severe harm or moderate harm or prolonged psychological harm to them.

The regulations also set out a notification requirement and it is a criminal offence for workers who commit breaches of the duty of candour.

Appendix 1: Further Information

  1. Meaning of Wilful

The meaning of “wilful “has been developed in the case of R v Sheppard [1981) AC the House of Lords  held that a man “wilfully” fails to provide adequate medical attention for [P] if he either

(a)  Deliberately does so knowing that there is some risk that P’s health may suffer unless he receives such attention; or

(b) Does so because he does not care whether P may in need of medical treatment, or not’

  1. Paid work

Paid work does not include:

  • payment in respect of the individual’s expenses;
  • payment to which the individual is entitled as a foster parent;
  • a benefit under social security legislation;
  • or a payment made under arrangements under Section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 (arrangements to assist people to select, train for, obtain and retain employment).
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Modern Slavery

Safeguarding Enquiries Process


County Lines: Criminal Exploitation of Children and Vulnerable Adults (Home Office)

National County Lines Coordination Centre, County Lines Awareness Video – a 10 minute video discussing the county lines methodology and how this is impacting children, young people and vulnerable adults, partners, law enforcement and society.

NHS, County Lines: Coercive Internal Concealment – a rapid read document on internal concealment.

Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Working definition of trauma-informed practice – guidance on trauma-informed practice

College of Policing, Adults at risk – authorised professional practice for policing on adults at risk

Crown Prosecution Service, CPS county lines offending guidance – sets out the approach of the police and the CPS to county lines offending, including the safeguarding of vulnerable persons, and the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.

April 2024: This chapter which provides information on how to spot signs that an adult with care and support needs is being exploited and what action to take if you have concerns, has been updated throughout.

1. Introduction – What is County Lines Exploitation?

County lines is a way of distributing illegal drugs which uses violence and exploitation. It is a form of abuse. It commonly involves children and vulnerable adults, who may have care and support needs, being forced to deliver drugs and money or weapons to drug dealers or drug users, either in the local area or in other counties.

Adults can also be forced to use their homes to store drugs, a practice known as cuckooing or forced home invasion (see Cuckooing chapter). Criminal exploitation has a devastating impact on victims, families and local communities.

The government definition of county lines is:

County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other forms of ‘deal line’. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons. (Serious Violence Strategy, Home Office).

This chapter provides guidance for frontline staff so they can recognise the signs of criminal exploitation and know how to respond so that victims get the support and protection they need.

Where concerns relate to the criminal exploitation of a child or young person under 18 years, the Safeguarding Children Partnership procedures should be followed.

2. Forms of Exploitation

County lines exploitation always involves some form of power imbalance which is used by the perpetrators to force, coerce, groom or entice victims into county lines activity. Methods used include:

  • offering an exchange: the victim carries drugs in return for something they need or want such as money, drugs, protection, a sense of belonging or identify, supposed friendship or affection;
  • physical violence or threats of violence: victims and their families are intimidated or punished. Weapons may be used;
  • abduction or kidnapping: victims are forcibly moved and held away from their homes;
  • emotional abuse or psychological coercive control – the victim’s movements are controlled using threats / manipulation;
  • sexual abuse and exploitation – this can be experienced by people of any gender;
  • blackmail – victims are forced to commit a crime so it can be held over them in the future if they do not comply with the exploiters;
  • social media / messaging apps – these can be used to target and communicate with victims, often by building false friendships online or to post fraudulent job adverts;
  • cuckooing / forced home invasion –criminals, usually drug dealers, take over the homes of vulnerable adults, including care leavers or those with addiction, physical or mental health issues. The property becomes the base for the criminal activity. It can be in rented or private properties, student accommodation or commercial premises. See Cuckooing chapter.
  • coerced internal concealment / plugging – victims are forced to conceal drugs or SIM cards internally, so they can be moved without detection by others, especially the police;
  • debt bondage –victims are made to repay money they owe by transporting drugs. Victims are often groomed and provided with money or goods which they then find out they have to pay back;
  • financial exploitation – victims are coerced, manipulated or deceived into moving money obtained through crime.


Vulnerable adults who have been groomed and exploited into county lines have not freely chosen to be involved and cannot consent to being exploited.

Just because an adult receives something in exchange for their involvement, this does not make them any less of a victim.

3. Who is at Risk of Exploitation?

Any vulnerable adult could be a victim of county lines exploitation, as exploiters continually adapt who they target to avoid detection.

Sex / gender – people of all genders can be exploited. Women are often exploited to perform different roles and can experience other forms of harm (such as sexual exploitation).

Ethnicity – people from all ethnicities and nationalities are targeted.

Location – county lines are widespread across the country, in both rural and urban areas. It can involve the movement of drugs across county borders from one area of the UK to another, but also to supply local drugs markets, and operate in the same town, city or county. County lines grooming can take place in a range of settings, including people’s homes, public spaces, schools and universities, prisons and youth offender institutions as well as online.

The risks of exploitation can be higher for particular groups of adults including those:

  • in contact with the criminal justice system, even for minor offences (the arrest of a victim can be an opportunity for the police to identify safety and welfare concerns);
  • who have experienced neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation, domestic abuse or trauma and who lack a safe or stable home environment. This includes care leavers;
  • who are socially isolated or experiencing social difficulties. The lack of friends or a support network can make it even harder for people to get help;
  • who do not have much money and / or ways of getting money legally (for example, do not find it easy to get jobs) ;
  • who are homeless or have insecure accommodation;
  • with connections to other people in gangs;
  • with a physical or learning disability or who are neurodivergent or experiencing mental health issues. It can be harder for these victims to recognise they are being exploited or to ask for help;
  • with insecure immigration status.

These risk factors do not cause the adult’s exploitation into county lines, but they can create an imbalance of power which exploiters then seek to abuse. However, adults with none of these risk factors and who are not known to services can also be exploited and are referred to as ‘clean skins’ by exploiters.

4. Signs to Look Out For

It is unlikely that a victim will report their own exploitation. This may be because they do not see themselves as victim or feel able to tell anyone that they are being exploited. They are also likely to be scared to ask for help because they are scared of serious repercussions from their exploiters.

However, practitioners who are working with adults are well placed to spot possible signs of county lines exploitation, which include the following.


  • Going missing, being unwilling to say where they have been or being found in areas they have no obvious connections to.
  • Self harm or significant changes in emotional wellbeing, behaviour or personality.
  • Isolation from social networks.


  • Suddenly having new clothes, money or mobile phones.
  • Receiving and making lots of phone calls or texts, having multiple phones or SIM cards.
  • Carrying or storing weapons.
  • Using drugs or possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia / equipment.
  • Having train tickets for unusual journeys.
  • Having a bag or rucksack that they won’t put down / leave.


  • Having unexplained injuries, for example cigarette burns.
  • Inappropriate online relationships, or being secretive.

Signs of being made to hide items inside them

  • Refusing food or drink.
  • Possession of lubricants and condoms.
  • Dishevelled appearance / stained clothing.
  • Being physically unwell (victims may require immediate medical help).

Debt bondage / financial exploitation

  • Large or unexplained sums of cash or deposits into bank accounts.
  • Unusual financial transactions.
  • Asking for money / stealing to pay back a debt.

If the practitioner has any concerns about changes in an adult’s behaviour or lifestyle, they should discuss these with them, and record details in the adults record (see Case Recording chapter).

5. Taking Action

Any concerns that a vulnerable adult is at risk of county lines exploitation require a safeguarding response.

If a person is at immediate risk of harm, the police should be contacted by calling 999.

If the person is not at immediate risk of harm, staff should talk to the adult and then concerns should be shared with the local authority adult safeguarding team (see Let’s Talk Team, Local Contacts) and the police. Use professional curiosity to gently ask the adult questions, they are likely to be reluctant to disclose information due to fear of repercussions (see also Professional Curiosity chapter).

This might involve the practitioner contacting the designated lead for safeguarding adults in their own organisation, who will then make a safeguarding adults referral; or, they could contact adult social care directly.

The local authority and partners agencies will then consider whether action is required to protect the adult victim. This may include a discussion about whether the person has care and support needs, if they have mental capacity (see Mental Capacity chapter) and if they do, whether inherent jurisdiction applies in their case. This is when a person with mental capacity is coerced or unduly influenced by another person, which restricts their ability to freely make their own decisions.

The adult should be at the centre of these discussions and any decisions that are taken during the safeguarding or inherent jurisdiction process. See Making Safeguarding Personal chapter.

Local authorities and the police have tools and powers to remove the exploiters and help victims., including applying for closure orders or injunctions on the cuckooed properties. All concerns should be recorded in the adult’s records along with details of all actions that have been taken and decisions that have been made (see Case Recording chapter).

If a practitioner is not satisfied with the local authority response to their concerns, the Escalation and Challenge Protocol should be followed.

5.1 Modern slavery and the National Referral Mechanism

Criminal exploitation is a form of modern slavery. The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) provides a framework for identifying and referring potential modern slavery victims and ensuring they receive appropriate support.  First responder organisations, which includes the local authority and the police (see Modern Slavery chapter, appendix 1), should refer adult victims of modern slavery to the NRM if they give their consent to this.  Even if the adult does not consent to the NRM referral, there is still a ‘duty to notify’ the Home Office that a potential victim of modern slavery has been identified. Full details can be found in the Modern Slavery chapter.  Any referral to the NRM or notification to the Home Office should come after the appropriate safeguarding steps have been taken and in light of the multi agency discussions held.

6. Practice Points

Put victims first –adults who are being exploited by county lines, they may look like they are agreeing to be involved in the criminality, but they may not actually recognise that they are being exploited. Practitioners should remember that vulnerable adults who have been groomed, coerced, manipulated and exploited into criminal activity have not freely chosen to be involved and therefore cannot consent to being exploited. They should be seen as victims first and foremost. Trauma informed approaches should be used, and the adult should be involved in the safeguarding process and next steps to build their trust (Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Working definition of trauma-informed practice – guidance on trauma-informed practice).

Understand the risks – professional curiosity is important when working with adults who may be a county lines victim. Practitioners should keep a log of activity and save any evidence.  Information should be shared with other professionals to gather the full picture.

Work in partnership with other organisations – collaboration and information sharing are essential to protect victims and disrupt offenders.

Appendix 1: County Lines Posters

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1. Introduction

There is, rightly, much focus on children who are victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE). However, when they reach their 18th birthday and become adults, their needs, in relation to the abuse and trauma they have experienced as children, need to be recognised by the adult services which are responsible for their care and support, in order to be able to offer them the most appropriate support and promote their wellbeing.

There are different groups of adult victims / survivors of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and organised sexual abuse.

First are those who continue to be abused by perpetrators once they turn 18, and who should be responded to through safeguarding adults processes. Second are those who are no longer being abused but disclose historic or previous CSE, which adult social care and the police have a duty to respond to if it is reported to them. Third, even when the sexual abuse, physical abuse and psychological abuse has ended, many survivors will require care and support as adults, due to complex personal issues which they may suffer as a result of the trauma they experienced. These can include mental ill health, self-harm, problematic use of drugs or alcohol and interrupted schooling or college, resulting in unemployment or low paid jobs.

In addition, some adults may also be vulnerable to organised sexual abuse (OSA), being targeted for the first time as adults not as children. In particular this applies to those who have care and support needs due to learning or physical disabilities, especially if they are in residential accommodation.

The vulnerabilities of these adults must be recognised by staff who are responsible for their care and support, so they can offer them the most appropriate support and promote their wellbeing. Whilst the focus is often on girls and young women, young men are also victims too, although it can be harder for them to report their abuse which therefore remains hidden.

This chapter provides guidance to practitioners and managers working in adult care services about working with adults affected by CSE or OSA.

2. Definitions and Terms Used

2.1 Sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation is a form of abuse. It occurs where a person, or group of people, take advantage of an adult (including those with care and support needs) to coerce, manipulate or deceive them into sexual activity for the perpetrator/s advantage. The perpetrator uses their power to get the adult to do sexual acts for the perpetrator’s own – or other people’s – benefit or enjoyment. Children and young people can also be victims (see Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures).

An imbalance of power is at the core of the ‘relationship’ between the perpetrator and their victim, which allows them to coerce, manipulate and / or deceive the adult. Psychological, physical and sexual abuse are often used to control them, especially to prevent them reporting the abuse to family, friends or professionals.

Sexual exploitation can vary from a one-off exploitative situation between a couple for example, to organised crimes where adults are sexually abused on a large scale, including being trafficked to different places.

Sexual exploitation may also take place in exchange for basic necessities such as food, accommodation or protection or something else that the victim needs or wants.

Sexual exploitation and abuse are criminal offences. Practitioners can seek advice from the local police public protection unit or specialised sexual exploitation multi-agency team, using anonymised examples, if required.

2.2 Gangs and groups

Some perpetrators operate on their own, but sexual exploitation / abuse can also be organised and planned by criminals who are either:

  • part of a street based gang or social group and are involved in different types of criminal activity and violence in particular geographical areas and are in conflict with other similar groups. Sexual abuse and violence are just some of the crimes they are involved in, rather than their only focus.
  • groups of two or more people who are connected through associations or networks including friendship groups. Their main purpose is to sexually exploit victims.

2.3 Grooming

Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child or an adult, to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse / exploitation. This can happen in person and online. Groomers can spend considerable time gaining their victim’s trust, hiding their true abusive intentions. Their methods include:

  • giving the victim a lot of attention and making them feel wanted and loved, often through flattery;
  • being understanding and listening to them;
  • buying or giving them gifts;
  • taking them out,
  • giving them drugs or alcohol – often for the first time – and making life with them seem exciting;
  • making them believe they are in a relationship together.

2.4 Organised sexual abuse

Organised sexual abuse by groups includes:

  • repeated sexual abuse / rape by their ‘boyfriend’ and his friends;
  • being trafficked to other towns and cities for the purposes of organised sexual abuse;
  • being verbally and physically threatened / abused if they try to exit the abuse;
  • family and friends being physically threatened;
  • attempts to groom younger siblings or friends;
  • being plied with alcohol and drugs to make them compliant to the point of addiction.

2.5 Terms used in this guidance

The term exploitation is when a person gains unfair advantage over another. It is commonly used to describe the behaviour of some perpetrators in relation to adults (and children).  While it may be an appropriate term at the grooming stage of exploitation (see Section 3, Signs of Sexual Exploitation / Organised Sexual Abuse in Adults), in the most serious cases which involved rape, multiple rape, gang rape and physical violence and emotional / psychological abuse, using the term ‘exploitation’ can disguise the level of harm that is perpetrated against the victim and the seriousness of the sexual offences being committed. This chapter therefore uses the term ‘sexual exploitation / organised abuse’. This is also the approach adopted by a number of agencies, including the National Crime Agency (NCA).

3. Signs of Sexual Exploitation / Organised Sexual Abuse in Adults

The following are signs of sexual exploitation / organised abuse among adults. Practitioners working with adults who have care and support needs should look out for:

  • acquisition of money, clothes, mobile phones etc without plausible explanation;
  • gang association and / or isolation from peers / social networks;
  • unexplained absences from school, college or work;
  • being excluded from school or college for unacceptable behaviour;
  • leaving home / care without explanation and persistently going missing or returning late;
  • excessive receipt of texts/phone calls, particularly when the adult will not say who they are from;
  • returning home under the influence of drugs / alcohol;
  • showing inappropriate sexualised behaviour / having sexually transmitted infections;
  • evidence of / concerns about physical or sexual assault;
  • relationships with controlling or significantly older individuals or groups;
  • frequenting areas known for sex work;
  • concerning use of internet or other social media;
  • increasing secretiveness; and
  • self-harming or significant changes in their emotional wellbeing.

Some adults can be at increased risk of sexual exploitation. These include if they:

  • are homeless;
  • are using drugs or alcohol;
  • do not have the mental capacity to consent to sexual activity;
  • are being trafficked;
  • were sexually abused as a child.

The Care Act 2014 places a duty on local authorities to make enquiries if there are concerns that an adult with care and support needs is experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect, and, as a result of those needs, is unable to protect themselves. This applies, for example, where an adult discloses sexual exploitation / organised abuse or if a member of the public or parent expresses concerns about an adult. See also Section 7, Taking Action.

4. Residential Care / Supported Living

When managers have concerns that adults living in residential homes or supported living arrangements – for which they are responsible – are being targeted by perpetrators, they should undertake an assessment in relation to this specific risk to identify adults who are experiencing or at risk of sexual exploitation / organised abuse. This should include people in residential care, supported living environments, and those in the process of transition from children’s services (including child protection) to adult care / adult safeguarding.

5. Transition from Children’s to Adults’ Services

When young people who have been sexually exploited move from children’s services to adult care, it is important that their needs are clearly identified and a plan is put in place to ensure ongoing support and protection. Any support needs of their parents  / carers should also be identified and addressed. See also Transition to Adult Care and Support chapter.

6. Assessments / Risk Assessments

6.1 Listening and building relationships

Many reports and enquiries about child sexual exploitation and organised sexual abuse have found that professionals, family members and the public who were raising concerns were often not properly listened to. There are also other difficulties which prevent victims coming forward.

Victims of abuse often find it difficult to talk about what happened to them, particularly if they have been sexually abused as it will require disclosing very personal details. Undertaking assessments is e a difficult time for victims / survivors, as it involves disclosing very distressing intimate information as well as taking initial steps to form trusting relationships with the professionals supporting them.

Relationships of trust need to be built over time and staff need to be appropriately skilled in active listening to pick up on small clues or unexplained changes in behaviour, which may arise during contact with adults who are experiencing / have experienced sexual abuse. Where adults do disclose concerns about sexual exploitation/abuse, these must be ‘heard’, taken seriously and acted upon. See Section 7, Taking Action.

6.2 Consent

Issues of consent are complex, and practitioners should seek advice from their manager, legal department or specialist service where they are unsure. The police should be contacted for advice if practitioners are concerned crimes have been committed against the adult.

In summary, if an adult lacks mental capacity, they cannot legally consent to have sex (see Mental Capacity chapter). Sexual acts with an adult who lacks the mental capacity to consent is sexual assault and is a criminal offence under Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Adults with mental capacity to make decisions about their sexual relationships can still be at risk of being manipulated, coerced or sexually exploited; their circumstances may still meet the safeguarding criteria. Section 42 safeguarding enquiries or other appropriate risk management planning and processes should work with the adult towards finding ways to support them in exiting the abusive situation.

In such circumstances, the power of Inherent Jurisdiction enables the courts (the High Court) to issue directions or orders to support the adult who has capacity, but is being coerced or controlled and where fear impacts their ability to give genuine and informed consent.

If the adult indicates that they want to receive a service relating to sexual exploitation – or any other intervention related to their care and support needs – they should be given all the necessary information for them to understand what is involved before giving consent for their information to be shared with other relevant practitioners as appropriate.

7. Taking Action

Staff should follow the South Tyneside Safeguarding Adults procedures, and contact adult social care regarding any concerns. A safeguarding adults discussion / meeting – with the adult at the centre of discussions – may be needed to agree and plan action. This must involve the police whose role is to investigate crimes that may have been committed, collect evidence and present the case to the Crown Prosecution Service if relevant, for a decision on  whether it is appropriate to charge the individuals (see Safeguarding Enquiries Process).

7.1 Post-abuse support

Whether or not alleged perpetrators are charged, sexual abuse often has long-lasting effects for victim-survivors and their families. These include psychological and emotional trauma affecting relationships and future parenting abilities, to mental health and substance misuse issues. These place further stress on victims and their families and a need for health and social care services.

The provision of appropriate support to those who have suffered trauma can significantly improve their lives in terms of health and family relationships. Survivors are likely to require support and therapeutic intervention for an extended period of time.

8. Supervision

See also Supervision chapter

Services should ensure that their staff receive regular supervision so they can reflect on their practice. Staff who offer direct support to sexually exploited adults may also require further intensive training and specialist support.

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Care and Support Planning


Supporting Adult Carers (NICE)

Social Work Practice with Carers (Research in Practice for Adults)

Quick Guide: Supporting People who Provide Unpaid Care for Adults with Health or Social Care Needs (NICE and SCIE)

see also  Support for Carers, South Tyneside Council

September 2022: Links to the following guidance for workers supporting carers have been added:

  • Social Work Practice with Carers (Research in Practice for Adults)
  • Quick Guide: Supporting People who Provide Unpaid Care for Adults with Health or Social Care Needs (NICE and SCIE)

1. Introduction

Carers, in this context, are usually family members or a friends.

Carers can play an important role in preventing and detecting abuse and neglect of the people they care for.  The vast majority of carers strive to act in the best interests of the person they support. There are times, however, when carers may themselves experience abuse from the person to whom they are offering care and support or from the local community in which they live.

Risk of harm to the supported person may also arise because of carer stress, tiredness, or lack of information, skills or support. Also, there may be times where the harm caused is deliberate.

Circumstances in which a carer could be involved in a situation that may require a safeguarding response from agencies include:

  • a carer may witness or talk about abuse or neglect in relation to the adult they care for, or another person;
  • a carer may experience intentional or unintentional harm from the adult they are supporting, or from professionals and organisations they are in contact with;
  • a carer may harm or neglect the adult they support on their own or with others. This may, or may not, be deliberate.

Where there is intentional abuse, adult safeguarding under the Care Act should always be considered.

All staff and professionals should support a human rights based approach to issues of abuse and neglect and to the recognition and support of carers.

Work developed by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), carers groups, commissioners and organisations working with carers, identify six distinct areas related to carers and safeguarding:

  • partnership working;
  • prevention;
  • support;
  • information and advice;
  • advocacy;
  • role of carers in strategic planning.

2. Partnership Working

Carers have a wealth of information and knowledge about the person that they support. As well as raising concerns, carers are able to support safeguarding enquiries by sharing information and are valued partners in such enquiries. Their views may hold the key to protecting people. If a carer speaks up about abuse or neglect, it is essential that they are listened to and appropriate enquiries made carers may identify and mitigate risk and act as advocates. The lessons from Transforming Care (Local Government Association) and other public inquiries need to be taken forward in viewing carers as equal partners unless there are valid reasons not to.

Where the adult lacks capacity, carers may reasonably provide professionals with the outcome they consider the adult at risk would want, as they know the persons likes and dislikes, what relationships are important to them and what relationships they may find difficult. Consideration for the carer and adult in safeguarding plans, in for example family conferences that have their own dynamics, need to take into account conflicting views as carers may not want the same outcome as the adult they are supporting (see the chapter on Stage 3: Plan / Review).

3. Support

‘If a carer experiences intentional or unintentional harm from the adult they are supporting, or if a carer unintentionally or intentionally harms or neglects the adult they support, consideration should be given to whether, as part of the assessment and support planning process for the carer and, or, the adult they care for, support can be provided that removes or mitigates the risk of abuse.’ (Chapter 14, Care and Support Statutory Guidance).

See also Support for Carers, South Tyneside Council

3.1 Information and Advice

See also Information and Advice chapter.

Carers need to know how they can find support and services available in their area, and be able to access advice, information. Carers need to know, that they can raise a concern in a safe environment and be confident that their concerns will be acted upon. It might be that people are unaware that the actions that they take could be perceived by others as abusive. For example, someone with a learning disability entitled to state benefits to meet their living expenses, and to have money as part of their access to leisure and other personal requirements may have this controlled by a family member.

Carers should have access to information and advice in a way that is meaningful to them and may themselves be in need of care and support and need to know how they can access services. See also Support and Care for Adults, South Tyneside Council.

3.2 Assessments

The Care Act includes protection from abuse and neglect as part of the definition of wellbeing (see Promoting Wellbeing chapter). As such, a needs assessment for the carer’s assessment is an important opportunity to explore the individuals’ circumstances and consider whether it would be possible to provide information or support that prevents abuse or neglect from occurring. This may be for example, by providing training to the carer about the condition that the adult they care for has, or to support them to care more safely. Where that is necessary the local authority should make arrangements for providing such interventions.

The carer’s assessment is distinct from a needs assessment. Safeguarding should always be at the forefront of assessments. Professionals need to be candid with carers about the risks that a carer’s assessment may identify for either preventing the need for safeguarding to them, or preventing the risk of the carer abusing the person that they are caring for.

Whole family assessments might also be considered using the framework of Think Family as an appropriate way forward. Working collaboratively with other agencies, carers may also receive support from a number of agencies.

4. Safeguarding Enquiries

If a carer raises any issues about abuse or neglect, it is essential that they are listened to and that, where appropriate, a safeguarding enquiry is undertaken and other agencies are involved as required.

Families, who view individual benefits as part of the family income, may not view their actions as abusive, but where the adult they are supporting has little or no choice about how their money is spent, this could be seen as financial abuse by others.  Where carers may have acted in a way that constitutes abuse staff should respond according to adult safeguarding procedures so that the adult is safeguarded appropriately. Whilst there may be mitigating circumstances to take into consideration the wellbeing and safety of the adult should be paramount.

If a carer experiences intentional or unintentional harm from the adult they are supporting, or if a carer unintentionally or intentionally harms or neglects the adult they support, consideration should be given to:

  • removing or reducing risk – whether, as part of the assessment and support planning process for the carer and / or the adult they care for, support can be provided that removes or reduces the risk of abuse. This may include, for example, the provision of training, information or other support that minimises the stress experienced by the carer. In some circumstances the carer may need to have independent representation or advocacy (see Independent Advocacy chapter); in others, a carer may benefit from having such support if they are under great stress;
  • involving other agencies – whether other agencies should be involved: in some circumstances where it is possible a criminal offence has been committed this will include alerting the police, or in others the primary healthcare services may need to be involved in monitoring the situation.

Other key considerations for carers should include:

  • involving carers in safeguarding enquiries relating to the adult they care for, as appropriate;
  • whether or not a joint assessment of the adult and the carer is appropriate in each individual circumstance;
  • the risk factors that may increase the likelihood of abuse or neglect occurring;
  • whether a change in circumstance changes the risk of abuse or neglect occurring.

A change in circumstance should also trigger the review of the care and support plan and, or, support plan (see Care and Support Planning chapter).

5. Advocacy

In some instances, the most appropriate person to support the adult and act as an advocate is the primary carer. Where the carer is acting in the role of advocate, they may need support to do so, therefore professionals need to provide information and ensure that it is understood. The carer themselves may be in need of an advocate. For example, where there are safeguarding concerns about an older person with their own care and support needs caring for a partner with dementia. Assumptions should not be made about carers acting as advocates or being in need of advocacy and each case should take account of the personal circumstances.

Advocacy can be helpful in all kinds of situations when the adult or their carer is finding it difficult to have their opinions and choices heard. There are numerous advocacy services that can offer support depending on the individual’s circumstance and the outcomes they wish to achieve.

Community Advocacy services refers to all advocacy that is not a legal entitlement and offers support with a range of situations. Organisations such as POhWER, SEAP and VoiceAbility can all offer further advice.

Advocacy for a specific cause is offered by charities and organisations which can provide advocacy for a specific issue. Examples include Shelter who offers advocacy for people experiencing housing problems and Coram Voice who offers mental health advocacy for young people in care.

Group advocacy (also known as collective advocacy) is where a group of people with similar experiences meet to support each other and collectively strengthen their voice. Mental health charities, like the National Survivor User Network for Mental Health (NSUN), has a network of mental health service user groups across the UK, as well as Mind and Mind’s Infoline.

Peer advocacy: Peer advocates have lived experience of a mental health problem and can offer support to help adults cope with a range of problems.

Statutory advocacy offers a legal entitlement to advocacy in certain circumstances. There are three types of statutory advocates in England and Wales: Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHAs), Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs) and advocates supporting people under the Care Act 2014.  See Independent Advocacy for further information.

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