What is meant by vulnerability?

In 2000, the Department of Health defined a Vulnerable Adult as “a person aged 18 or over, who is in receipt of, or maybe in need of, community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who is, or may be unable to take care of themself or unable to protect themself against significant harm or exploitation.” This is a broad definition and serves to make us think of the various reasons why someone might be included in its remit. Examples include physical and learning disabilities or impairment as well as factors such as ageing, addiction or dementia. For other people, a change in their personal circumstances might render them vulnerable – for example a period of unemployment, relationship breakdown which may be accompanied by domestic violence, becoming homeless or leaving care. Such things do not mean that someone is vulnerable in all areas of life – they may be, but not necessarily.

The forms of abuse to which individuals, whether children or vulnerable adults, may be prone are usually considered under six headings: Physical, Sexual, Psychological, Spiritual, Neglect and Financial. Of these, Spiritual and Financial abuse have a particular relevance to Vulnerable Adults. People can be adversely affected by oppressive or obtrusive ministries and by forms of excessive pastoral interference or over-directive preaching and teaching. This can be interpreted as Spiritual Abuse, irrespective of the intention of the perpetrator. Financial Abuse can take the form of willful extortion or manipulation of rights, including misappropriation of monies or goods, and can often, though not always, involve relatives and family members.