Would you recognise abuse if you saw it?

There are many types of harm. It’s important to learn to spot the signs of abuse. This will ensure that people in your organisation know what measures to take if they encounter a safeguarding issue.

You need to create an environment where everyone feels safe to report any concerns they may have. There are ways you can help your staff understand their roles and responsibilities in this area, such as through informal discussions or routine training.

Recognise both poor practice and more serious abuse

Poor practice issues can easily escalate. If you don’t take the time to deal with them, they can soon become more serious. Therefore, it is essential that staff have a clear understanding of how to report. You must also reassure them that it is always right to raise a concern.

Poor practices can affect the culture of your organisation. They can easily become acceptable practice over time. So ensure everyone knows who to report to, whether that’s their manager or your safeguarding lead. This person can then decide whether their concerns warrant a safeguarding referral, or whether the matter can be dealt with locally.

Whistleblowing and Raising Concerns policy

Staff should never feel nervous to speak out. They should never fear that there will be negative repercussions for doing so. Your whistleblowing policy should provide them with details about the support that they will receive if they raise their concerns. It should also reassure them that when they report a concern, they will receive the full support of your organisation.

Your safeguarding policy and your whistleblowing policy should also provide staff with details of external sources of support they can turn to for advice and guidance. For example, the free whistleblowing advice service, Protect.

Once an employee’s raise a concern, you must act as soon as possible. Your records should show whether you have responded in a timely fashion. They should also explain if there have been any delays to acting. You should review this information, and look for any ways you might improve your response in the future.

Recognise, assess and act upon immediate risks first. If you have an inefficient system to assess those risks, there could be delays. And delays could increase the risk of harm.

Your staff will be more likely to raise concerns if they know they have a choice about the way they are treated. They’ll also be more likely to report incidents if they know who to report to, and if they’re confident that someone will listen and act. And don’t forget that the people you support need accessible information resources just as much as your staff.

Carry out regular financial audits

Financial audits are particularly important when organisations oversee people’s budgets. Financial audits should cover the entire service. Consider investing in an accounting system that can identify any anomalies or signs of financial abuse.

Your policy should state how finances are managed. They should be scrutinised regularly, and not just when the audit is due. This should be supervised by a named person to ensure it is completed in a timely fashion.

The Care Act & Making Safeguarding Personal

When you’re handling a safeguarding concern, The Care Act emphasises the importance of including the person concerned in any discussions and decision making. This is Making Safeguarding Personal, and it should be at the core of your safeguarding policy.

You should request, record, and consider their views. There are times when you may have to take action that might be against their wishes. In this case, you must discuss the situation with them, and explain why you can’t quite do things the way they want you to. This could be because others may be at risk, or because the safeguarding issue involves a crime and you’re thus obliged to involve the police.

Monitoring a person’s emotional and physical wellbeing

Look for any indicators that suggest a person is at risk of harm, such as changes to demeanour or behaviour. Make a point of recording these indicators.

Through monitoring these signs and reviewing them regularly you may identify a safeguarding issue. Indicators to record include changes in physical wellbeing, signs of distress or illness, and noticeable changes such as weight gain or weight loss.

Whether you’re an individual or working with an organisation, it’s important to recognise when harm is occurring, and also to know the proper channels to report it.

What would you do? Watch our different Safeguarding Scenarios and see if you can recognise the types of harm.


Below you’ll find many resources that’ll help you ensure you have the right procedures in place to make everyone feel comfortable recognising and reporting issues.

To self-assess your safeguarding knowledge, policy and procedures, complete the checklist online here.

Already completed this assessment and want to further your knowledge? Check out our list of useful resources and guides:

An essential guide to all the main types of harm, with individual primers for each. Learn more.

Safeguarding people with dementia – recognising adult abuse. Learn more.

The Charity Commission’s hotline for whistleblowers. Learn more.

Downloadable Resources

Whistleblowing: Recommendations for policy and practice. Download here.

NCA guidance for councils on how to identify and support victims of criminal exploitation. Download here.

What Dimensions does about whistleblowing. Download here.

Want to know how to record and report a safeguarding issue? Click here.