Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults

All adults have the right to be safe and to live a life free from abuse. All persons are entitled to this right, regardless of their circumstances. It is the responsibility of all service providers, statutory and non-statutory, to ensure that, service users are treated with respect and dignity, have their welfare promoted and receive support in an environment in which every effort is made to promote welfare and to prevent abuse.” Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse – National Policy and Procedures’ (2014).

The “Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse - National Policy and Procedures”, which applies to all HSE and HSE funded services, outlines a number of principles to promote the welfare of vulnerable people and safeguard them from abuse. These include a requirement that all services must have a publicly declared “No Tolerance” approach to any form of abuse and must promote a culture which supports this ethos.

Some of the principles underpinning the policy include:

  • Respect for human rights
  • A person centred approached to care and services
  • Promotion of advocacy.
  • Respect for confidentially
  • Empowerment of individuals
  • A collaborative approach. 

There are a number of different types of abuse.

  • Physical Abuse includes slapping, hitting, pushing, kicking, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate sanctions.
  • Sexual Abuse includes rape and sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the vulnerable person has not consented, or could not consent, or into which he or she was compelled to consent.
  • Psychological Abuse includes emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, coercion, harassment, verbal abuse, isolation, or withdrawal from services or supportive networks.
  • Financial or Material Abuse includes theft, fraud, exploitation; pressure in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions; or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
  • Institutional Abuse may occur within residential care and/or acute settings including nursing homes, acute hospitals, and any other in-patient settings and may involve, for example, poor standards of care, rigid routines or inadequate responses to complex needs.
  • Neglect and Acts of Omission include ignoring medical or physical care needs, failure to provide access to appropriate health, social or educational services, the withholding of the necessities of life such as medication, adequate nutrition and/or heating.
  • Discriminatory Abuse includes ageism, racism, sexism, based on a person’s disability and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment.

All vulnerable people have a right to be protected against abuse and to have any concerns regarding abusive experiences addressed. They have a right to be treated with respect and to feel safe, regardless of the setting in which they live.

If anyone has a concern about abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person in a HSE or HSE funded residential facility, they should report it to a health care professional (e.g. public health nurse, physiotherapist, GP etc.) or to the Safeguarding and Protection Teams (SPTs) in each of its nine Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs).

HSE National Safeguarding Office

A National Office was established in December 2015 in accordance with the HSE’s Social Care Division Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse National Policy & Procedures. The core function of the office is to oversee the implementation, monitoring, review and ongoing evaluation of the Safeguarding Policy as well as coordinating the development and roll-out of safeguarding training. 

A recommendation at the time of the policy launch was that the policy would be subject to review within a short period. This was designed to take account of the impact of its application and any legislative or policy changes that could impact on its implementation. The Review was commenced in 2017 has been undertaken on a staged project plan basis.

Phase 1 – This initial phase undertook an analysis of the workings of the current policy including its strengths/weaknesses and considered the messages from a detailed international literature review. This phase considered how the policy is experienced and working in practice for users.

Phase 2 – This phase was the listening phase undertaken with a wide range of stakeholder groups. We had excellent feedback via 173 formal submissions to the NSO and 33 roundtable focus group meetings held throughout the country. Importantly, service user and advocacy engagement was a central component of this phase. This phase considered key issues on areas such as scope, roles, operational models and potential use of thresholds in a revised policy. This phase has now completed and reports of the findings are being circulated to the subgroups.

Phase 3 - This is the current stage which involves revision and drafting of the document.

To contact the National Safeguarding Office please e-mail or phone 061 46 1165 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday).

Safeguarding Ireland

Safeguarding Ireland was established to promote the safeguarding of adults who may be vulnerable, protect them from all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and develop a national plan for promoting their welfare. This will be achieved by promoting inter-sectoral collaboration, developing public and professional awareness and education, and undertaking research to inform policy, practice and legislation in the Republic of Ireland. In December 2017, Safeguarding Ireland published its first Strategic Plan which spans a five‐year period until the end of 2021.

Department of Health - Adult Safeguarding 

A new National Adult Safeguarding Policy is to be developed for the health sector. The safety and protection of vulnerable people is a key objective of the Government and society. A range of legislation and policy-based measures to that end is already in place in Ireland but it is acknowledged that there is a need to identify gaps in legislation and also that promoting awareness and cultural change is key to effective safeguarding You can find out more here



National Safeguarding Office Annual Report 2022

National Safeguarding Office Annual Report 2021

National Safeguarding Office Annual Report 2020

National Safeguarding Office Annual Report 2019

National Safeguarding Office Annual Report 2018

Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse’ – National Policy and Procedures’

A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document about the policy

Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons Procedure Flow chart.pdf (size 245.5 KB)

Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons Community Referral Forms

Information Leaflet for Service Users about Safeguarding

Self Neglect