Safeguarding and keeping safe

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?

Safeguarding is about protecting the health, wellbeing and human rights of:

  • Children.
  • 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. 

What is abuse?  

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. 

What should I do if I think I am being abused or neglected? 

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. 

How can I tell if someone else is being abused or neglected? 

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. 

What should I do if I think someone is being abused or neglected? 

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: 

Communicating with someone who might have been abused or neglected 

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. 

Childline: Neglect 
Information for older children around issues of neglect, including reporting it. 

Staying Safe Out and About | Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities

Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities 

Staying Safe Out and About
An easy read guide for people with learning disabilities.

Watch a video on disability hate crime on hate crime (including signed versions) from Gloucestershire Constabulary.  

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. 

You can also report child abuse to your local authority in Northern IrelandScotland and Wales

NHS: Find Local Authority Adult Social Care services 

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. 

Supporting Vulnerable Groups Online

Free internet safety resources for parents.

Download our procedures

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 in 2025.