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Describe factors that may contribute to an individual being more vulnerable to abuse


In the previous section, we described what constitutes harm. On this page, we will explore some of the factors that could make an individual more vulnerable to harm or abuse.


In your role as a care worker. it is likely that you will come into contact with individuals that are more vulnerable to harm and abuse.

This can be due to several factors, including:

  • Physical disability e.g. mobility issues, limited independence, unable to defend themselves
  • Learning disability e.g. not fully understanding that they are being abused/neglected
  • Communication difficulties e.g. if recovering from a stroke – unable to communicate that they have been abused
  • Mental illness e.g. hallucinations, confusion, anxiety, depression, fear of reporting, not being believed
  • Addictions e.g. drug abuse, alcohol abuse
  • Social isolation e.g. having no support circle
  • Dementia e.g. confusion or unable to recall abuse happening
  • Dependency e.g. unable to leave or report the situation
  • Family conflict e.g. generational differences in opinion
  • Location e.g. in an individual’s home an abuser can hide their actions easily or in a residential home organisational abuse is more likely to occur
  • Poorly-trained staff e.g. staff not knowing how to deal with an individual with behaviour that challenges
  • Poorly-managed support e.g. poor workplace culture, lack of resources, institutional abuse, overworked staff
  • Carer-related e.g. stress (especially if the carer has other priorities such as children or work), poor relationships, lack of support or financing

When considering the nature and scope of harm and abuse to adults at risk, it is important to understand that harm and abuse towards vulnerable people can happen anywhere and be both deliberate and unintentional. Performing a task as simple as cutting an individual’s fingernails can constitute harm and abuse if they do not have the relevant documentation in their care plan or you have not been properly trained in this task. Similarly, eating an individual’s food even if they are leftovers or past their sell-by date and will be thrown away could constitute financial/material abuse.


Employers must have safeguards in place to ensure that vulnerable adults are protected. This includes having agreed ways of working, policies and procedures that comply with legislation and best practice. Employees must adhere to these agreements to ensure that their own practice complies with legislation and best practice or they could be liable if things go wrong.

Both employers and employees must also be transparent when things go wrong (duty of candour) and report incidents to the relevant agencies (e.g. social services, HSE, police etc.).


Accompanying Video

Video Transcript



My name is Daniel Dutton and I run the website dsdweb.co.uk which provides free help, guidance and support for people that are studying for care qualifications.


In this video, we will be looking at factors that may contribute to an individual being more vulnerable to abuse. This is an assessment criterion for the Level 2 and Level 3 Diplomas in Adult Care as well as the Care Certificate.

But before I continue, I’d be very grateful if you could click on the thumbs-up button to Like this video and subscribe to my channel. This helps the video to be more visible on Youtube so that it can be easily found by other students.
Factors that may contribute to an individual being vulnerable to abuse include:


* Being dependent on others – reliance on others can create an unequal power distribution, which can potentially be exploited. In addition, a lack of independence may mean that an individual has no one to turn to if they are being abused.
* Communication difficulties – if an individual has difficulty communicating they may not be able to tell anyone if they are being abused
* Social isolation – similarly, individuals that are isolated from others will not have a support network of family or friends that they can talk to if they have concerns
* Individuals with impaired cognition may not understand their rights, that they are being abused or what they can do about it
* There are several conditions that can make an individual more vulnerable to abuse, which will be covered in the next section

Individuals with the following conditions may be more vulnerable to abuse – this is not to say that all individuals with these conditions are more vulnerable but the risk factor is higher.


* Individuals with physical disabilities may not be able to physically defend themselves. They may also be dependent on their abuser.
* Individuals with learning disabilities may not understand that they are being abused or what they can do about it.
* Individuals with dementia may not be able to remember that they have been abused or become confused about what they experienced.
* Similarly, individuals with mental illnesses may have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is a hallucination – this can also lead to them not being believed by others, which is why it is important to take all allegations and disclosures of abuse seriously. Mental illness can also affect an individual’s self-esteem and self-confidence, which can make them less likely to report abuse
* Individuals that use substances may also be vulnerable because chemicals can temporarily and permanently change their physical and mental functioning. Sedatives can make an individual compliant in whatever they are asked to do, mind-altering drugs can blur the lines between reality and imagination and individuals with a history of drug use may not be believed when they make an allegation.
Other factors that can make an individual more susceptible to abuse are related to their environment and carers.

* If care staff do not have sufficient training, they will not be competent or confident enough to perform their job role correctly. This has been evidenced in several scandals, such as the Panorama investigation into the Winterborne View care home.
* Similarly, high profile serious case reviews often pinpoint poor management and leadership within care organisations as contributory factors. As well as poor training, this can include poor workplace culture, lack of supervision and not having robust systems and processes in place.
* The location of an individual can also affect the likelihood of abuse occurring. An individual that lives alone may be more vulnerable to exploitation, whereas individuals in a care home may be subject to institutional abuse.
* Conflict within an individual’s family, stress and lack of support may make an individual that is cared for by family members more vulnerable to abuse. If their carer has other commitments and priorities or perceives the individual as a burden, it may lead to them becoming neglected.


Thank you for watching and I hope you’ve found this video useful.

If you require any additional help or want to send feedback about this video, please feel free to use the comments section below or visit my website dsdweb.co.uk. More information about this assessment criterion can be found in the link in the description.


And, if you’ve not already done so, please click the Like and Subscribe buttons below.

Bye for now.

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