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Adult Safeguarding

Safeguarding adults at risk of harm or in need of protection

Most adults in Northern Ireland live independent, comfortable and secure lives free from exploitation and neglect. However, there are some adults who, because of their situation or circumstances, may have been harmed or may be at risk of harm. Health and Social Care (HSC) agencies play a lead role in preventing, detecting and providing protection to adults at risk of harm.

Adult safeguarding is the term used for activities which prevent harm from taking place, and which protects adults at risk (where harm has occurred or is likely to occur without intervention).

In 2010 the Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding Partnership (NIASP) and the Local Adult safeguarding Partnership (LASP) were established in each Trust area. They provide strategic leadership and direction to organisations involved in the spectrum of safeguarding activities. NIASP is made up of representatives from the main statutory, voluntary and community organisations involved in adult safeguarding work across the region.

CLICK HERE for the Southern LASP Leaflet on Adult Safeguarding.

CLICK HERE for the April 2024 Southern LASP newsletter.

Adult safeguarding in the Southern Trust

Health and social care services provided by the Southern Trust play a lead role in preventing, detecting and providing protection to adults at risk of harm and in need of protection. With the support and assistance of other statutory agencies, independent and voluntary organisations they aim to ensure adults receive the necessary protection, support, and equitable access to the criminal justice system.

The overall aim of adult safeguarding is to prevent the abuse of adults whose exposure to harm may be increased by their personal characteristics and/or life circumstances. An empowering, consent driven, rights based, interagency approach to adult safeguarding is promoted.

Annual Report

Southern Local Adult Safeguarding Partnership – Annual Report April 2019 – March 2020

Are you concerned about someone?

If someone tells you they have been hurt or are afraid, you should listen and respond sensitively. Do what you can to make them feel safe.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know has been harmed, exploited or neglected, it is very important to tell someone.

You can either visit your nearest social service office or contact the Southern Trust adult protection gateway service or alternatively your local PSNI.

If you feel in immediate danger or think that someone else may be in immediate danger, Dial 999.

How do I access the service?

If your concern relates to an adult over 18 years and resident in the Southern Trust area or has been in the Southern Trust area when the abuse, neglect or exploitation occurred you can access the service either by:

  1. Contacting the adult’s social worker, nurse or other professional from the Southern Trust directly. Click here for contact details.
  2. If you are unsure if the adult has a Trust contact person please contact the Adult Protection Gateway team below:

During office hours 9-5pm Monday – Friday: Adult Protection Gateway Service 02837564423

Out of hours (5pm-9am, weekends and bank holidays): Regional Emergency Social Work service – 02895049999

Useful link
  • What happens when you report concerns?

Every concern will be taken seriously.

Your concern will be listened to and someone will ask some questions to make sure they understand your worries. This is important as the person taking your call needs to be able to understand the seriousness of the concern you are describing, and if there are any immediate actions required to keep someone safe.

Any information you give will be treated in strictest confidence. You will be asked for your name and address, as there may be a need to get in touch with you at a later date to clarify what you have reported. However, if you choose not to share your name and address, your call will still be taken and acted upon.

  • What happens after you contact?

Your concerns will be dealt with by either a member of staff from the local core service teams or someone from the Adult Protection Gateway team.

It is important that all safeguarding concerns are responded to in a balanced, proportionate way and with the consent of the person you are worried about. There may be some circumstances where the adult may be unable to consent or where consent may not be required because the professionals involved believe actions are necessary to safeguard others.

Some concerns will be more appropriately responded to through professional assessment and support. However there may be some concerns where serious harm as occurred that requires further investigation by Southern Trust and / or PSNI. This will be explained to you if this is the case.

If you have a complaint about how your concern has been responded to, please refer to the Southern Trust complaint procedure

  • Would you like to tell us your story?

If you would like to share your experience of adult safeguarding with us, you can complete the 10,000 voice survey. Responses are anonymous and confidential.

  • What do we mean by abuse?

“Abuse is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons.” (No Secrets DH 2000)

Abuse is ‘a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to another individual or violates their human or civil rights’. (Action on Elder Abuse 1993)

CLICK HERE to read the many types of abuse.

CLICK HERE to read signs and indicators of abuse.

  • Who is an adult at risk of harm?

An ‘adult at risk of harm’ is a person aged 18 or over, whose exposure to harm through abuse, exploitation or neglect may be increased by their personal characteristics and/or life circumstances.

Personal characteristics may include, but are not limited to, age, disability, special educational needs, illness, mental or physical frailty or impairment of, or disturbance in, the functioning of the mind or brain.  Life circumstances may include, but are not limited to, isolation, socio-economic factors and environmental living conditions.

  • Who is an adult in need of protection?

An ‘adult in need of protection’ is a person aged 18 or over, whose exposure to harm through abuse, exploitation or neglect may be increased by their:  A. personal characteristics  and/or  B. life circumstances     AND  C) who is unable to protect their own well-being, property, assets, rights or other interests;  AND  D) where the action or inaction of another person or persons is causing, or is likely to cause, him/her to be harmed.

In order to meet the definition of an ‘adult in need of protection’ either (A) or (B) must be present, in addition to both elements (C), and (D).

In most situations HSC Trusts will make decisions regarding the degree of risk and level of harm an adult may be facing and decide on the most appropriate action to take.  If there is a clear and immediate risk of harm, or a crime is alleged or suspected, the matter should be referred directly to the PSNI or HSC Trust Adult Protection Gateway Service.

If you think a crime has occurred where medical or forensic evidence might still be present consider the need for an urgent referral to the police service and be cautious not to touch or disturb possible evidential material

  • Where can abuse occur?

Abuse can occur anywhere including in your own home, in residential or nursing care facilities, day care facilities or in hospital.

Who might be the abuser?

•a member of the family, a friend or neighbour

•a paid or volunteer care worker

•a professional worker

•someone else who is receiving care

•someone you don’t know.

  • Predisposing Factors

Abuse can happen in a range of settings, in a variety of relationships and can take a number of forms. There are a number of indicators, which could, in some circumstances, in combination with other possibly unknown factors suggest the possibility of abuse. Abuse may be more likely to happen in the following situations:

  • Environmental Problems – overcrowding/poor housing conditions/lack of facilities
  • Financial Problems – low income, a dependent vulnerable adult may add to financial difficulties, unable to work due to caring role, debt arrears, full benefits not claimed
  • Psychological and Emotional Problems – family relationships over the years have been poor and there is a history of abuse in the family or where family violence is the norm
  • Communication Problems – the vulnerable person or their carer has difficulty communicating due to sensory impairments, loss or difficulty with speech and understanding, poor memory or other conditions resulting in diminished mental capacity; this also includes people for whom English is a second language
  • Dependency Problems – Increased dependency of the person, major changes in personality and behaviour, carers are not receiving practical and/or emotional support
  • Organisational culture – services which are inward looking, where there is little staff training/knowledge of best practice and where contact with external professionals is resisted increase the vulnerability of service users. High staff turnover or shortages may also increase the risk of abuse.


  • Responding to Initial Disclosures of Adult Abuse

If someone tells you about abuse, your role is to respond sensitively and pass the information on to social services or the PSNI. Disclosure may take place many years after a traumatic event or when someone has left a setting in which they were afraid. This delay should not, in itself, cast doubt on its truthfulness.

If someone discloses abuse to you:


  • Stay calm and try not to show shock or disbelief
  • Listen carefully to what they are saying
  • Be sympathetic (‘I am sorry that this has happened to you’)
  • Be aware of the possibility that medical evidence might be needed.


  • They did the right thing to tell you
  • You are treating the information seriously
  • It was not their fault
  • You are going to inform the appropriate person
  • Report to social services or the police
  • Write down what was said by the person disclosing as soon as possible

and DO NOT

  • Press the person for more details. This will be done at a later date
  • Stop someone who is freely recalling significant events; (e.g. don’t say ‘Hold on we’ll come back to that later,’) as they may not tell you again
  • Ask leading questions that could be interpreted as putting words or suggestions to vulnerable adult or any vulnerable witnesses
  • Promise to keep secrets. You cannot keep this kind of information confidential
  • Make promises you cannot keep (such as, ‘This will never happen to you again’)
  • Contact the alleged abuser
  • Be judgmental (for example ‘Why didn’t you run away?’)
  • Pass on the information to anyone other than those with a legitimate ‘need to know.’
  • At the first opportunity make a note of the disclosure and date and sign your record.
    You should aim to
  • Note what was said, using the exact words and phrases spoken, wherever possible
  • Describe the circumstances in which the disclosure came about
  • Note the setting and anyone else who was there at the time
  • Separate out factual information from your own opinion
  • Use a pen or biro with black ink, so that the report can be photocopied
  • Be aware that your report may be required later as part of a legal action or disciplinary

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