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Key duties of public bodies

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Duty of local authorities to investigate whether an adult at risk is being harmed

A local authority must make enquiries, or to ask others to make enquiries, if they reasonably suspect that an adult with care and support needs is at risk of or experiencing neglect or abuse, and is unable to protect themselves.

This duty applies regardless of whether the individual is currently receives support. It applies to anyone in the local authority’s area, whether or not the person is ordinarily resident there.

Reference: Section 42 of the Care Act 2014

The key statutory guidance for public providers is revised regularly by the secretary of state.

Reference: Care and support statutory guidance

Ability of the courts to protect the autonomy of an individual

The courts have the power to liberate adults at risk whose autonomy has been compromised by a reason other than mental incapacity because they are:

  • under constraint
  • subject to coercion or undue influence
  • for some other reason deprived of the capacity to make the relevant decision or disabled from making a free choice, or incapacitated or disabled from giving or expressing a real and genuine consent.

Reference: DL v A Local Authority [2012] EWCA Civ 253, Paragraph 54

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 15 June 2022

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