What is Abuse Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005?
Abuse and neglect take many forms. Abuse can lead to a violation of someone’s human and civil rights by another person or persons. Abuse can be physical, financial, verbal or psychological. It can be the result of an act or a failure to act.
It can happen when an adult at risk is persuaded into a financial or sexual exchange they have not consented to, or can’t consent to. Abuse can occur in any relationship and may result in significant harm or exploitation.
Some types of abuse are illegal, and in these cases adults who lack capacity are protected by law the same as everyone else. If OPG suspects that a crime against a client has been committed, they refer the matter to the police. Sometimes, an urgent referral is made for the safety of the adult at risk and/or to preserve evidence.
Abuse is a misuse of power and control that one person has over another. Where someone is dependent on another, there is the possibility of abuse or neglect unless enough safeguards are put in place.
What is Abuse? Abuse can fall into the following categories:
- Physical: this includes assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, giving the wrong (or no) medication, restraining someone or only letting them do certain things at certain times.
- Domestic: including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse. It also covers so-called ‘honour’ based violence.
- Sexual abuse includes rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking or touching, sexual teasing or innuendo, taking sexual photographs, making someone look at pornography or watch sexual acts, sexual assault or sexual acts the adult didn’t consent to or was pressured into consenting.
- Psychological: including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, depriving someone of contact with someone else, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, putting pressure on someone to do something, harassment, verbal abuse, cyber bullying, isolation or unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or support networks.
- Financial or material abuse: includes theft, fraud, internet scamming, putting pressure on someone about their financial arrangements (including wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions) or the misuse or stealing of property, possessions or benefits.
- Modern slavery: covers slavery (including domestic slavery), human trafficking and forced labour. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever they can to pressurise, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse and inhumane treatment.
- Discriminatory abuse includes types of harassment or insults because of someone’s race, gender or gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
- Organisational abuse: neglect and poor care in an institution or care setting such as a hospital or care home, or if an organisation provides care in someone’s home. The abuse can be a one-off incident or repeated, on-going ill treatment. The abuse can be through neglect or poor professional practice, which might be because of structure, policies, processes and practices within an organisation.
- Neglect and acts of omission. This includes ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services, or not giving someone what they need to help them live, such as medication, enough nutrition and heating.
- Self-neglect covers a wide range of behaviour which shows that someone isn’t caring for their own personal hygiene, health or surroundings. It includes behaviour such as hoarding.
Abuse can take many forms. It might not fit comfortably into any of these categories, or it might fit into more than one. Abuse can be carried out by one adult at risk towards another. This is still abuse and should be dealt with. The adult at risk who abuses may also be neglecting him/herself which could also be reason for a safeguarding referral.
Who might be an abuser?
Adults at risk can be abused by a wide range of people – anyone, in fact, who has contact with them. This includes family members, professional staff, paid care workers, other adults at risk, volunteers, other service users, neighbours, friends and associates, people who deliberately take advantage of vulnerable people, strangers and people who see an opportunity to abuse.
Abuse is always wrong, but it’s especially worrying when carried out by someone in a position of power or authority over someone, who uses that power to harm an adult at risk.
Next article: Spotting the signs of financial abuse…..
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