Guides for licensed drivers and accommodation providers to recognise and understand signs of abuse in children, young people and adults with care and support needs

Adult with care and support needs

The statutory framework introduced under the Care Act 2014 applies to any person aged 18 and over who:

  • Has needs for care and support (regardless of whether or not they are being met)
  • Is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect
  • As a result of those needs is unable to protect themselves against the abuse or neglect, or risk of it.


The Children Act 1989 defines a child as any person who has not yet reached their 18th birthday.


"A violation of an individual's human and civil rights by any other person or persons. It may involve a single or repeated act, occurring within a personal or other close relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm to another person".

The four main types of abuse of children and adults with care and support needs

Table: The four main types of abuse of children and vulnerable adults
Physical Abusewhere a person is physically hurt / injured.
Sexual Abusewhen a child or vulnerable adult is sexually abused, either by adults or by children, to meet their own sexual needs.
Neglectwhere parents or carers fail to meet basic and essential needs to have food, clothes, warmth and medical care.
Emotional Abusedeliberate hurtful behaviour, usually repeated over a period of time.

Other types of abuse relating to adults with care and support needs

Table: Other types of abuse relating to vulnerable adults
Financial Abuseunauthorised, fraudulent obtaining and improper use of funds, property or any resources.
Discriminatory Abusewhen values, beliefs or culture result in a misuse of power that denies mainstream opportunities to some groups or individuals.
Institutional Abusecollective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service.

Child Sexual Exploitation is illegal activity by people who have some form of power and control over children (under 18) and use it to sexually abuse them.

Some children may be more vulnerable to exploitation than others, and it can happen to boys as well as girls, affecting children from any background.

Warning signs to be aware of

  • Going missing or regularly returning home late
  • Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour or displaying sexual knowledge or behaviour that is inappropriate for their age
  • Regularly being dropped off at hotels or other such venues

Modern Slavery (or Human Trafficking) involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people who, with the threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, abuse of power or deception. Victims are exploited for the purposes of prostitution, forced labour, slavery or other similar practices.

Victims are trafficked all over the world including in and around the UK for little or no money. Victims may be forced to be involved in criminal activity or even to have their organs removed to be sold. There is no typical victim and many victims don't understand that they have been exploited and that they are entitled to help and support.

Warning signs to be aware of

  • Appearing to have been told what to say and allowing others to speak on their behalf, even if you speak to them directly, and they seem capable of responding for themselves
  • Appearing withdrawn, timid or frightened
  • Physically or emotionally harmed

Report a concern

In all cases it is very important that early warning signs are acted upon, and if you think that somebody you have come into contact with is suffering from abuse you can report your concerns in the following way:

Table: How to report a concern
Risk/ConcernWho you should tellTelephone Contact details
Physical, Emotional, Sexual abuse or neglect of an under 18Essex Social Care AND the Police (if a crime)0345 603 7627 / 101 (or 999 in an emergency)
Child Sexual Exploitation / Modern Slavery (if under 18)Police AND Essex Social Care101 (or 999 in an emergency) / 0345 603 7627
Physical, Emotional, Sexual, Financial, Discriminatory, Institutional abuse or neglect in an adult with care and support needs (see definition)Essex Social Care Direct AND the Police (if a crime)0345 603 7630 / 101 (or 999 in an emergency)
Modern Slavery and human trafficking (18 and over)Police OR The Modern Slavery Helpline (24 hour Referral Helpline)101 (999 in an emergency) / 08000 121 700

If a child, young person or adult with care and support needs is at immediate risk of significant harm you should always ring 999 in the first instance, followed by Essex Social Care to discuss your concerns.

Help and support

For more information and advice see: