What is safeguarding children and vulnerable adults?

Safeguarding applies if a child or a vulnerable adult is experiencing or at risk of abuse and neglect. Safeguarding is a term relating to actions taken to promote the wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults and protect them from harm.

Raising concerns about abuse and neglect

Abuse and neglect is not always intentional, but always requires a response.

Children and vulnerable adults may be perpetrators as well as victims of abuse and neglect.

Local authorities take the lead in investigating safeguarding concerns, but everyone and every organisation who comes into contact with a child or vulnerable adult shares responsibility to help keep them safe. Anyone can witness or become aware of information suggesting that abuse and neglect is occurring – it mustn’t be assumed that someone else will act.

If you’re worried that a child or vulnerable adult is at risk of, or may be experiencing abuse or neglect, it’s important to share your concerns. It’s better to share and find that no further action is required then to leave the situation unresolved.

What should I do if a child or vulnerable adult discloses abuse?

  • Listen carefully. Don’t panic. Maintain a calm appearance. A reaction of shock or distress could cause them to 'shut down', retract or stop talking. Don’t push for information, fill in words, finish their sentences, ask leading questions or make assumptions. 
  • Let them know they've done the right thing by telling you. Reassurance can make a big impact – they may have been keeping the abuse secret because of guilt or fear.
  • Reassure them it's not their fault. Abuse is never their fault and they need to know this.
  • Say you take them seriously. Abuse may be kept secret in fear they won't be believed. They've told you because they want help and trust you'll support them.
  • Don't talk to the alleged abuser. Confronting them could make the situation worse. 
  • Explain what you'll do next. If appropriate to their age and intellectual capacity, explain that you'll need to report the abuse to someone who will be able to help. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • Write down what you have been told while it’s still fresh in your mind. Records should be detailed, precise and stored securely.
  • Don't delay reporting the abuse. Report as soon as possible so action can be taken quickly.
If anyone is at immediate risk of serious harm please call 999.

If you have non-urgent concerns that a child or vulnerable adult is being (or is at risk of being) abused or neglected, please call the UWE Bristol Serious Concerns line on:
  • +44(0)7788 725507 (Monday-Thursday 8:30-17:00, Friday 8:30-16:30)
  • +44(0)7814 791212 (weekends and other times).
Safeguarding concerns should not be reported anonymously as no action would be able to be taken.

There are two ways you can tell us what happened