1.4 Describe harm

1.4 Describe harm

Safeguarding and Protection in Care Settings

Care Learning

4 mins READ

This guide will help you answer The RQF Level 2 Diploma in Care Unit 1.4 Describe harm.

When working in health and social care, it’s essential to understand what harm is. Harm can occur in various forms and can severely affect an individual’s well-being. This understanding is crucial for providing safe, effective, and compassionate care. Let’s delve deeper into the concept of harm, its types, and its implications in a care setting.

What is Harm?

Harm refers to any negative impact on an individual’s physical, mental, emotional, or social well-being. It can result from actions or omissions, whether intentional or unintentional. Recognising harm is the first step in preventing it and ensuring that care services are safe and effective.

Types of Harm

Physical Harm

This type of harm affects an individual’s bodily health. It may result from actions such as hitting, slapping, or mishandling, or from neglect, such as failing to provide adequate care. Examples include bruises, fractures, and pressure sores.

Emotional and Psychological Harm

Emotional harm affects a person’s feelings and mental state. It may result from verbal abuse, bullying, or neglect. Continual exposure to stress, threats, or criticism can lead to issues like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Financial Harm

Financial harm includes issues like theft, fraud, or excessive charges. It occurs when someone exploits an individual’s finances for personal gain. Vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly or those with disabilities, are often targets.

Neglect and Acts of Omission

Neglect and acts of omission involve failing to meet a person’s basic needs. This can include ignoring medical needs, not providing adequate nutrition, or failing to support social engagement. It can have serious consequences, including deteriorated health and reduced quality of life.

Sexual Harm

Sexual harm includes any unwanted or non-consensual sexual activity. It can involve physical acts or non-physical acts like sharing explicit materials without consent. This form of harm profoundly affects an individual’s emotional and mental well-being.

Institutional Harm

Institutional harm refers to poor or inadequate care within health and social care settings, stemming from policies or practices. It may involve lack of personalisation, inappropriate use of restraints, or poor staff training.

Symptoms and Signs of Harm

Recognising harm is vital. Common signs include:

  • Physical Indicators: Unexplained injuries, weight loss, deterioration in personal hygiene.
  • Emotional and Psychological Indicators: Mood changes, withdrawal from activities, anxiety.
  • Financial Indicators: Missing funds or possessions, financial anxiety, unexplained financial transactions.
  • Neglect Indicators: Poor living conditions, unattended medical needs, malnutrition.
  • Sexual Harm Indicators: Bruising in sensitive areas, behaviour changes, reluctance to engage.
  • Institutional Indicators: Lack of autonomy, standardised care not tailored to individual needs, poor record-keeping.

Addressing Harm

Reporting Procedures

Staff must know procedures to report harm. This includes understanding their organisation’s safeguarding policies and knowing whom to contact.

Support for Victims

Support varies based on the harm type but generally includes medical treatment, emotional support, and financial assistance. Counsellors, advocacy services, and support groups can play crucial roles.

Training and Awareness

Regular training ensures staff members understand the types of harm and how to prevent them. Topics include safeguarding, dignity in care, and effective communication.

Risk Management

Risk assessments identify potential harm and implement measures to mitigate these risks. Regular reviews ensure these measures remain effective.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Duty of Care

Health and social care workers have a duty of care to act in the best interests of those they support. This legal obligation involves preventing harm and promoting welfare.


While reporting harm, workers must balance confidentiality with the need to protect individuals. Sharing information must follow legal guidelines and organisational policies.


Key legislation includes the Care Act 2014, which sets out professionals’ responsibilities in safeguarding, and the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which provides a framework for making decisions on behalf of those who lack capacity.

Example answers for unit 1.4 Describe harm

Below are example answers from the perspective of a care worker completing Unit 1.4 “Describe harm.”

Example 1:

As a care worker, I understand that harm can come in many forms. Physical harm is noticeable with signs like bruises or cuts. This can come from something as simple as someone falling or, more concerning, from someone being mistreated. It’s my duty to always stay vigilant and report any signs of physical harm immediately.

Example 2:

Emotional and psychological harm is less visible but just as serious. I’ve seen residents become withdrawn or anxious, often a sign they are experiencing emotional abuse or neglect. This can come from verbal abuse or isolating them from others. I always make sure to listen and offer support when I notice these signs.

Example 3:

Financial harm is another area that we need to be aware of. Vulnerable adults can easily fall prey to scams or have their money taken by someone they trust. I always make sure that the residents’ financial matters are managed transparently and securely, reporting any irregularities to my supervisor.

Example 4:

Neglect and acts of omission are serious. Not providing necessary care like feeding, bathing, or medical support can result in significant harm. I ensure my residents receive all the care they need daily. I also make sure any care plans are followed, addressing any gaps in care immediately.

Example 5:

Sexual harm is deeply traumatising and can involve anything from inappropriate touching to more severe acts. We need to create a safe environment where residents feel secure and respected. If I ever witnessed or suspected any kind of sexual harm, I would report it to the safeguarding team without hesitation.

Example 6:

Institutional harm can occur when standard procedures overlook individual needs, like not personalising care or improperly training staff. I always advocate for personalised care plans and ongoing training to ensure that every resident’s unique needs are met. This helps to avoid routine practices that could lead to harm.

These example answers reflect the knowledge and vigilance required by care workers to identify, report, and prevent harm in their day-to-day duties.


Understanding harm in health and social care is critical for promoting a safe, respectful, and supportive environment. Different forms of harm have unique signs and require specific actions to address effectively. Through awareness, training, and adherence to legal and ethical guidelines, care workers can ensure that harm is identified and mitigated, ensuring the well-being of those they support.

By staying vigilant and informed, every health and social care worker contributes to a safer and more compassionate care environment.

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