Who are vulnerable people?

Vulnerable people are defined by the circumstances that make them vulnerable rather than on personal characteristics. There is no single definition of what makes someone vulnerable and there are various situations that people can find themselves in which make them vulnerable. Vulnerability can be either short-term or long-term and include scenarios such as having chronic ill-health, domestic abuse, homelessness or a home that’s flooded. Every circumstance will be unique and require a different support plan.

Children are classed as vulnerable and there are safeguarding laws designed to protect young people throughout society from neglect or abuse. Some adults are also classed as vulnerable. While providing a comprehensive definition of who falls under such a category is difficult, it is commonly agreed that a vulnerable adult is someone ‘who may be in need of community care services due to disability, age or illness; and may be unable to take care of or unable to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation’. This is a definition taken from the 1997 Lord Chancellor’s Consultation ‘Who decides?’

Anybody wishing to work with those classed as vulnerable or in a regulated setting must have a DBS Check. For more information about what that involves and what is included in a DBS, visit http://www.carecheck.co.uk

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 was designed to avoid harm by stopping people who are unsuitable for working with children and vulnerable adults from having access to them. As a direct result of this act, the Independent Safeguarding Authority was created. In 2012, this organisation merged with the Criminal Records Bureau and became the Disclosure and Barring Service. Any employer that provides a service to or staff for those classed as vulnerable has a legal requirement to have their staff complete this background check.

People classed as potentially vulnerable may need protection from those who seek to abuse or exploit them. Abuse is the mistreatment of someone that violates their civil and human rights. It can vary massively from treating someone with disrespect to physical assault and causing psychological harm.

Abuse can happen anywhere and sadly, in places where you would never imagine abuse to take place. For example:

  • In a school or youth club
  • In a person’s home
  • In a nursing home
  • In the workplace
  • In a hospital
  • In the street

Abusers can also take many forms and in most cases, are well-known to the victim. They might be:

  • A support worker
  • A carer
  • A healthcare professional
  • Another resident in supported housing
  • A family member, friend or neighbour
  • A teacher

They can also be strangers who trick vulnerable people into befriending them for their own selfish gains. They might intend to exploit them physically or financially, scam them into believing they are from reputable businesses for the purposes of theft or intimidate people into handing over money for reasons they don’t want or understand.