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Understanding the risks

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Use this page to start to understand different types of harm and abuse, and how people may be affected. It is the first step towards being able to manage safeguarding risks.

You should discuss the types of abuse and harm that people within and connected to your organisation might experience. This will help you decide which policies and procedures you need to work on most urgently.

Who is most at risk?

Anyone can be at risk of abuse. People are at risk at different times and in different situations.

Children and young people

All organisations and individuals have a responsibility to safeguard children. A child is anyone under the age of 18.

If you work regularly with young people, you may find guidance on the National Youth Agency's safeguarding and risk management hub.

Adults at risk

Any adult may experience abuse or harm. However, certain people are considered to be at greater risk so are given more protection by law.

An adult at risk is anyone aged 18 or over who:

  • has needs for care and or support
  • as a result of care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from abuse
  • is currently experiencing or is at risk of abuse.

Adults at risk may:

  • have a mental or physical illness
  • have a learning disability
  • have addiction problems
  • be frail.

Whether an adult is at risk or not is something which changes with their circumstances – it’s not fixed.

Your staff or volunteers

Protecting your staff and volunteers is not necessarily safeguarding – but you do have a duty to keep them safe. This means paying attention to the particular types of harm that can develop within an organisation.

Digital safeguarding

Safeguarding matters in everything you do digitally, from the impact of something you write online to how you store data. You need to consider safeguarding when you design and deliver digital services whether on your own platforms (such as your website or any apps) and when using other platforms (such as social media sites). You also need to consider how people who use your digital technology are kept safe from exposure to harm and do not use your technology to harm others.

Types of abuse and harm

You need to be aware of several types of harm.

  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Neglect
  • Radicalisation
  • Discriminatory
  • Financial

Empowerment and self-determination

Everyone has the right to make decisions for themselves. When you’re safeguarding adults, you must understand this right. Otherwise you can accidentally cause a different kind of harm by removing a person’s freedom of choice.

Guides from other organisations

Last reviewed: 18 June 2021

Help us improve this content

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 18 June 2021

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