The Charity Commission requires the RMBF to have systems in place to safeguard vulnerable children and adults. Failure to have such systems in place is regarded by the Commission as a ‘serious incident.’ This section focuses on vulnerable adults and the arrangements we need to have in place for visiting them.  During home visits, if children are seen at all, it must be in the presence of their parent(s) or their guardian(s).

Definition of a vulnerable adult

A vulnerable adult is someone who is aged 18 or over and “is or may be in need of community care services by reasons of mental health or other disability, age or illness” and “is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation”.

(From Who decides: making decisions on behalf of mentally incapacitated adults, Lord Chancellor’s Department, 1997)

A vulnerable adult may be a person who:

  • is elderly or frail
  • has learning disabilities
  • suffers from mental illness (e.g. dementia, personality disorder)
  • has physical disability
  • is a substance misuser
  • is in an abusive relationship
  • is homeless

It should be noted that disability or age alone does not signify that an adult is vulnerable.

Good practice guidelines

The Charity Commission requires all staff, Trustees and Volunteers of the RMBF to adopt a common sense approach when dealing with vulnerable adults. The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of good practice, developed following risk assessment:

  • Treat all vulnerable people with respect and dignity
  • Be patient – allow them time to express their thoughts and produce the evidence needed when completing applications for assistance
  • Maintain a safe and appropriate distance
  • Where a vulnerable person lives alone, try and arrange for a third party to be present when you visit. This might be a friend, relative or colleague of the applicant, or a second Area Visitor, Medical Liaison Officer or Trustee (i.e. a Volunteer officer whose recruitment has involved a formal screening process through taking up of references, GMC registration and/or basic DBS check)
  • Maintain a professional relationship, and do not allow yourself to become personally involved with a vulnerable adult or a member of their family
  • Be open in your dealings with vulnerable people by keeping contact notes and informing your RMBF Caseworker of your activities, but remember to destroy these after you have submitted your report.

Please do not:

  • allow or engage in any form of inappropriate contact
  • allow vulnerable people to use inappropriate language unchallenged
  • make sexually suggestive comments to a vulnerable person
  • allow allegations made by a vulnerable person to go unchallenged, unrecorded or not be acted upon
  • do things of a personal nature for a vulnerable person that they can do for themselves
  • administer medication
  • search through personal belongings unless requested to do so

Setting boundaries

Please always keep in mind that you are representing the RMBF when visiting applicants, and that you are not an advocate for the applicant. The relationship you build with them should always be on a professional level and it is vital to set these boundaries from the first visit.

As a general rule it is advisable not to give or accept gifts, either for yourself or on behalf of the Caseworker involved with the applicant.

In the unlikely event that you know the applicant either personally or professionally, please inform the Caseworker. In certain circumstances it may become necessary for the Casework Department to re-allocate an applicant.

During your visit please remind the applicant that your role requires you to report back to the RMBF, so ask permission to take notes.


Forward to Part 6: Confidentiality and data protection

Area Visitor Handbook index