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A vulnerable adult is a person aged 18 years of age or over who is, or is in need of, community care services by reason of disability, mental disability, age, or illness and are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.

There is legislation is in place to protect vulnerable adults.

The Human rights act 1998 gives specific rights to every person living in the UK,  including the right to life and freedom from torture or degrading treatment.

The Care Act 2014 makes it the duty of local authorities to make enquiries if a person is being abused or neglected. or is at risk of abuse or neglect taking place. Multi-agency safeguarding adult review boards are set up to review cases where people die as a result of neglect or abuse and if it is suspected that agencies could have done more to safeguard them.

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 aims to protect and empower individuals who are unable to make choices for themselves.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination and disadvantage due to their race, religion, sexual preference, or any other protected characteristic.

The Data Protection Act 2018 regulates how organisations use personal data, providing protection against people’s data being placed in the wrong hands which could make them more vulnerable to abuse.

All agencies should provide training for all staff and volunteers who work with vulnerable adults to ensure that the policies, procedures, and professional practices in place locally are in line with their responsibilities in the adult protection process.

The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) merged with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) in December 2012 to become the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The barring side of the DBS provides expert caseworkers who process referrals about individuals who have harmed or pose a risk of harm to children or vulnerable groups. They make decisions about who should be placed on the child or adult barred lists and be prevented by law from working with children or vulnerable groups. A person who is barred from working with children or vulnerable adults will be breaking the law if they work or volunteer or try to work or volunteer with those groups.

Employers and organisations have a duty to report to the DBS any member of staff or volunteer who is dismissed or removed from their position because they have harmed a child or vulnerable adult, or has left before they were dismissed. An organisation that knowingly employs someone who is barred to work with those groups will be breaking the law. 

The Public Disclosure Act 1998 is in place to allow employees to voice authentic concerns about misconduct and malpractice without the fear of dismissal, victimisation, denial of promotion, or facilities or training opportunities. In the past employees were hesitant to raise concerns about wrongdoing, for fear of not being listened to and putting their job at risk. Unions have taken the role of watchdogs to assure that this statutory protection is upheld.