What is abuse and neglect?

Abuse and neglect is an action or a failure to take action that causes someone harm. To abuse someone is to treat them badly. To neglect someone is to fail to care for them. An

It might be a single act or repeated act, it could be intentional or due to a lack of understanding. It might also be a crime.

Unfortunately, abuse can be caused by anyone; a partner, friend or neighbour, a paid or volunteer carer, other customers, someone in a position of trust or a stranger.

Types of abuse and neglect

Physical abuse 

This includes hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medicines, restraint, or inappropriate physical actions.

Sexual abuse

This includes rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking and touching, sexual teasing or suggestion, sexual photography, subjection to pornography or witnessing sexual acts, sexual assault, sexual acts to which the person has not agreed or was pressured into agreeing to.

Emotional/psychological abuse

This includes verbal abuse, humiliation, cyber-bullying, the use of threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, isolation or unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or support networks.

Financial or material abuse

This includes theft, fraud, internet scamming, coercion in relation to the person's financial affairs or arrangements and the misuse of property, benefits or possessions.

Neglect and acts of omission

This includes ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support, educational services or the withholding of the necessities of life such as food, medication and heating.


This covers a wide range of behaviour such as neglecting to care for one’s hygiene, health or surroundings and includes behaviours such as hoarding.

Discriminatory abuse

This includes forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment because of race, gender and gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion.

Organisational abuse

This includes neglect and poor care practice within an institution or specific care setting, such as a hospital or care home, or in relation to care provided in the person’s own home. This may range from one off incidents to on-going ill treatment and can be through neglect or poor professional practice, as a result of the structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation.

Modern slavery

This encompasses slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude by traffickers and slave masters using whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.

Online abuse

Online abuse is any type of abuse that happens on the web, whether through social networks, playing online games or using mobile phones. Children, young people and vulnerable adults may experience cyberbullying, grooming, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or emotional abuse.

People can be at risk of online abuse from people they know, as well as from strangers. Online abuse may be part of abuse that is taking place in the real world (for example bullying or grooming). Or it may be that the abuse only happens online (for example persuading children to take part in sexual activity online).