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Adult Neglect

Whilst there is no overarching definition of neglect, Dudley Safeguarding People Partnership use the following definition:

The failure of any person, who has responsibility for the charge, care, or custody of an adult at risk, to provide the amount and type of care that a reasonable person would be expected to provide.

Neglect of this type may happen within an adult’s own home or in an institution. Repeated instances of poor care may be an indication of more serious problems. Neglect can be intentional or unintentional.


Neglect and Acts of Omission includes:

  • Ignoring medical, emotional, or physical care needs
  • Failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services.
  • The withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate nutrition, and heating.
  • Poor environmental conditions
  • Inadequate heating and lighting
  • Poor physical condition of the vulnerable adult
  • Clothing is ill-fitting, unclean and in poor condition.
  • Malnutrition
  • Failure to give prescribed medication properly.
  • Failure to provide appropriate privacy and dignity.
  • Inconsistent or reluctant contact with health and social care agencies
  • Isolation – denying access to callers or visitors.

The Care Act defines institutional abuse (or “organisational abuse”) as one of the 10 types of harm. It includes neglect and poor care practice within a specific care setting. This could be a hospital or a care home, or in relation to care provided in a person’s own home. This may range from one off incidents to on-going ill-treatment. It can be through neglect or poor professional practice because of the structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation.

Organisational abuse may include:

  • Inappropriate use of power or control.
  • Inappropriate confinement, restraint, or restriction.
  • Lack of choice – in food, in decoration, in lighting and heating, and in other environmental aspects.
  • Lack of personal clothing or possessions.
  • No flexibility of schedule, particularly with bed times.
  • Financial abuse.
  • Physical or verbal abuse.
  • An unsafe, unhygienic or overcrowded environment.
  • A strict or inflexible routine.
  • Lack of privacy, dignity, and respect for people as individuals.
  • Withdrawing people from community or family contacts.
  • No choice offered with food, drink, dress or activities.
  • No respect or provisions for religion, belief, or cultural backgrounds.
  • Treating adults like children, including arbitrary decision-making.

Most forms of neglect or abuse are perpetrated by another person and the law generally presumes there is a perpetrator as well as a victim. An exception is self-neglect.

Self-neglect covers a wide range of behaviour, neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding. Self- neglect it is also defined as the inability (intentional or non-intentional) to maintain a socially and culturally accepted standard of self-care with the potential for serious consequences to the health and well-being of the individual and sometimes to their community.

Self-neglect covers a range of behaviour related to neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health, or surroundings and includes behaviour such as hoarding. Evidence of self-neglect may not prompt a formal safeguarding enquiry but may lead to other forms of social care intervention.

For further information see the self-neglect web page