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Health and social care rights

Explains your rights to health and social care for your mental health. Includes information on eligibility for social care and how local authorities may meet your needs.

What's safeguarding?

Safeguarding means protecting your right to live in safety, free from abuse or neglect. Local authorities have duties under the law towards people who are experiencing abuse or neglect, or are at risk of either.

Who do the safeguarding duties apply to?

Local authorities have safeguarding duties towards you if you're an adult and:

  • You have needs for care and support, even if the local authority isn't meeting your needs
  • You're experiencing, or are at risk of, abuse or neglect
  • As a result of your needs, you're unable to protect yourself against abuse or neglect, or the risk of it

We refer to someone as 'a person at risk'. This means someone who has safeguarding needs that their local authority must meet

Note: Local authorities also have safeguarding duties towards children. But the information in these pages only covers adults.

What do abuse and neglect mean?

Abuse can mean:

  • Physical abuse
  • Domestic abuse. This can include psychological and emotional abuse
  • Psychological abuse. This can include humiliating you, isolating you, bullying you – either in person or online
  • Financial abuse. This can include having your money or possessions stolen or misused, or coercing you into a financial arrangement
  • Sexual abuse
  • Discriminatory abuse
  • Organisational or institutional abuse. This can include abuse in a hospital, care home or workplace

Neglect can mean:

  • Ignoring medical, physical or emotional care needs
  • Failing to provide you with access to health, care and support or educational services
  • Withholding necessities of life, such as food, medication and heating
  • Self-neglect. This can cover a wide range of behaviour, such as neglecting your personal hygiene, health or surroundings. It can also include behaviours such as hoarding

What safeguarding duties does the local authority have?

If the local authority has good reason to believe you're a person at risk, this may mean that safeguarding duties apply. If you're in its area, the local authority must make an enquiry to decide what action should be taken.

What's an enquiry?

An enquiry might just be a conversation with you. Or it may be a formal investigation involving other agencies involved in your case. For example, your GP or professionals involved in your mental health care. It depends on your individual circumstances.

The aim of an enquiry is to:

  • Find out the facts
  • See what your views are
  • Assess whether you need protection, support and redress (for example, compensation if you've lost money)
  • Protect you from the abuse and neglect, taking into account your wishes
  • Make decisions about follow-up action
  • Help you come to terms with what's happened and move towards recovery

You should be fully involved in the enquiry. If you have difficulty in being involved, the local authority should appoint an advocate for you.

Can the local authority enter my home? (Wales only)

The local authority can normally only enter your home with your consent. But if they’re concerned that you're a person at risk, they can ask the Magistrates Court for permission to enter your home with an Adult Support and Protection Order. This order will let them enter your home so they can speak to you in private, to help decide if you’re an adult at risk. 

This legislation doesn't apply in England. 

What happens after an enquiry?

Once the enquiry has happened, and the local authority knows what your wishes are, a number of things could happen:

  • There could be no further action.
  • Staff could be disciplined. For example, if you've been abused or neglected by a care worker.
  • If the enquiry reveals that a criminal offence has been committed against you, the local authority will pass over the enquiry to the police.
  • The local authority could prepare a safeguarding plan which might set out:
    • What future steps should be taken
    • What further support, treatment or information you may need
    • What further risk prevention strategies should be undertaken

What's an 'safeguarding adults board'?

All local authorities must have a safeguarding adults board. Its purpose is to:

  • Help and protect adults at risk in their areas
  • Conduct safeguarding adult reviews when there are concerns about how the authorities have responded. Or if it's suspected that an adult has suffered severe abuse or neglect or has died as a result of abuse or neglect

The board is made up of:

  • The local authority itself
  • The local Integrated Care Board (ICB) in England or the local health board in Wales
  • A senior police officer from the local constabulary

Other people can also be invited to attend some meetings. For example, GPs or members of user, advocacy or carers groups.

This information was published in February 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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