Raise a safeguarding issue
Tell Sense if you are concerned about yourself or somebody else in one of our services.
This page is about safeguarding for children and adults with complex disabilities or learning disabilities.
It tells you what safeguarding is, with a link to the different laws and systems in place in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
It covers abuse and neglect, how to tell if someone is being abused or neglected, and what to do if you think you are being abused or neglected or if someone else is.
It also has links for further information and support.
- What is safeguarding?
- Making your own choices
- What is abuse?
- What should I do if I think I am being abused or neglected?
- How can I tell if someone else is being abused or neglected?
- What should I do if I think someone is being abused or neglected?
- Communicating with someone who might have been abused or neglected
- Further information and support
What is safeguarding?
Safeguarding is about protecting the health, wellbeing and human rights of:
- Young people.
- Adults with complex disabilities or learning disabilities.
This includes protecting your right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect.
Making your own choices about safeguarding
If you are an adult with complex disabilities or learning difficulties, safeguarding is also about you being independent and making your own choices.
This idea can be summed up as: no decision about me, without me.
You can find out more here about Sense’s approach to making sure you are involved in decisions about your safeguarding, as well as our policies, procedures and training, including guidance for Sense staff and volunteers.
Abuse is when someone hurts you or treats you badly. This might happen once or a number of times.
Abuse is always wrong and should not happen.
If someone uses verbal abuse, intimidation or threats, or harasses or assaults you, or damages your property because of your disability, race, gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation or religion, this is known as a hate crime.
You should report a hate crime to the police.
If you think you are being abused or neglected, you can tell:
- Someone in your family.
- A friend or neighbour.
- A manager at work.
- A member of staff at work.
- A nurse or social worker.
- A GP or other doctor.
- A teacher.
- A support group or organisation (see further information and support below).
- Your local council’s safeguarding team.
- The police, if it’s a crime, for example assault, sexual abuse, stealing, fraud and hate crime – or ask someone you trust to help you to speak to the police. If you are in immediate danger, call 999.
Employers should make sure they do not give jobs to people who might hurt or abuse people with complex disabilities or learning disabilities.
They should carry out checks, for example with the Disclosure and Barring Service, to find out whether new staff have abused anyone before.
The signs are not always the same but pay attention if the person:
- Has become quieter and withdrawn from activities, contact or communication.
- Has lost weight or appears underfed.
- Doesn’t appear to be washing regularly.
- Often seems to be wearing dirty clothes.
- Seems like they might not be getting their medication – regularly or at all.
- Seems to be struggling with money or has no money.
- Has cuts, bruises or injuries that can’t be explained.
- Shows changes in their behaviour.
- Has changed sleeping patterns.
You should start by talking to the person:
- Let them know that you’ve noticed a change and that you’re concerned.
- Listen to them and remain calm, even you’re upset by what you hear.
- Be patient – they may not want to talk or may be scared.
- Don’t promise that you won’t tell anyone what you’ve heard, even if they ask you to. If they’re being abused or neglected, you must seek help from others as soon as possible.
- Make it clear that they have a right to feel safe and that what’s happening to them is wrong.
You should then report your concerns and what you’ve been told to someone responsible for safeguarding:
- If the person is receiving services from Sense, follow the Sense Safeguarding Procedure in the downloadable document section or contact the service manager, operational manager, Director of Operations or Head of Safeguarding.
- For people not using Sense services, contact the person’s GP or a social worker, teacher, nurse, support worker, other professional or support group or organisation. (See further information and support).
- Their local council’s safeguarding team.
- The police, if you think a crime has been committed and the person is at immediate risk.
If you have to communicate with someone who might have been abused or neglected, remember to use their preferred method of communication.
You can find out more here about the many different ways people with complex disabilities or learning disabilities prefer to communicate.
Further information and support about safeguarding
Ann Craft Trust
A leading UK authority on safeguarding adults and young people at risk.
Association for Real Change UK (ARC UK)
ARC UK is a membership organisation supporting anyone involved in the planning or delivery of support or services for people with a learning disability.
Safety Net Resources, including Friend or Fake? – about mate crime – plus an audio version of the booklet, questionnaires, presentations and workshop videos.
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command
Reporting facility for children, parents and carers to report any online safety concerns.
Information for older children around issues of neglect, including reporting it.
Staying Safe Out and About
An easy read guide for people with learning disabilities.
GOV.UK: Find your local council
GOV.UK: Report child abuse to a local council (England only)
Use the postcode search to find contact details of your council’s social care team.
UK Safer Internet Centre
The UK Safer Internet Centre offers online safety tips, advice and resources to help children and young people stay safe online.
Download our procedures
- Safeguarding guidance – adults at risk (England and Wales)
- Safeguarding guidance – children and young people (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
- Safeguarding procedure – adults at risk (England and Wales)
- Safeguarding procedure – adults at risk (Northern Ireland)
- Safeguarding procedure – children and young people (England)
- Safeguarding procedure – children and young people (Northern Ireland)
Make a complaint
If you wish to raise concerns about a person at Sense, we will take your complaint seriously.
This content was last reviewed in April 2023. We’ll review it again next year.