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Everything starts with “Hello”

Abuse can happen to anyone. It exists in many forms, such as financial abuse, physical abuse, and neglect. Those at greater risk are people whose care and support needs affect their ability to protect themselves including, the elderly, people living with learning disabilities, mental ill-health or severe illness.

Not everyone has someone in their lives to notice the signs of abuse and offer help. You could make a difference to them just by saying ‘hello’.

Did you know, just taking the time to have a chat with your neighbours could prevent abuse? It will reduce loneliness, provide a chance to spot signs of abuse and reduce the likelihood of them being victims of crime.

Stop Adult Abuse Week started in 2014 when five Safeguarding Adults Boards in the South West joined together to raise awareness about safeguarding people from abuse and neglect. We’ve teamed up to share some advice.

We hope our Chat Bench initiate will help to tackle isolation. Some of your local police teams have already set up benches and PCSO Tracey Grobbeler has two in Vivary Park in Taunton and on the Sea Front in Burnham on Sea.

Chat Benches help break down invisible, social barriers between strangers who find themselves sharing a common place. We can all play a part in keeping our communities safe. Simply stopping to say ‘hello’ to someone at the Chat Bench could make a huge difference to the vulnerable people in our communities and help to make life a little better for them.

What is self-neglect and how can I help?

Self-neglect is when a lack of self-care gets so bad it threatens someone’s personal health and safety. It could relate to personal hygiene, hoarding, clothing, eating properly or tending to medical conditions they may have.

You can help by looking out for possible signs such as someone beginning to look unkempt, suddenly loosing weight, their home not being looked after as they previously would have, keeping themselves to themselves and not allowing people into the property.

Sometimes the person might say they’re fine and whilst our first instinct is to believe them, being a little more ‘curious’ about what they are telling you could help uncover a hidden issue.

I’m worried a vulnerable person is being controlled.

Coercive control is when a person repeatedly behaves in a way which makes someone else feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared. Common examples of this behaviour includes isolation from friends and family, controlling money or activities, constant insults or threats, damaging personal property and intimidation.

People being controlled may lose a sense of what a ‘normal’ friendship or relationship is. Part of the abuse can also mean that they have become isolated from friends and family. A friendly person in the neighbourhood might just encourage someone to reach out for help.

What is Mental Capacity?

Someone can lack capacity to make some decisions (for example, to decide on complex financial issues) but still have the capacity to make other decisions (like deciding what items to buy at the local shop). Sadly, people who lack capacity are more likely to be vulnerable to abuse or neglect. Examples of people who may lack capacity include those with:

  • Dementia
  • A severe learning disability
  • A brain injury
  • A mental health illness
  • A stroke
  • Unconsciousness caused by an anaesthetic or sudden accident

However, just because a person has one of these health conditions it doesn’t necessarily mean they lack the capacity to make a specific decision.

What you can do if you have concerns:

  • Safeguarding is about looking out for people who cannot prevent abuse from happening to them
  • Speak up if you think someone is being harmed and prevent abuse from happening
  • Find out the basics about supporting someone to make a decision

Your local authority Safeguarding Boards are listed below along with some helpful information.

Local Safeguarding Adults Boards

Mental Capacity Act Information – Easy Read

Mental Capacity Act Information – Film

Mental Capacity Act Law and Policy  – a website for professionals