Other adults

  • Some adults have a responsibility to behave in a particular way with you because they are providing you with a public service
  • Your rights mean that these people have to respect your rights, treat you with dignity, and not abuse you or be violent towards you
  • Other adults you might know don’t have these duties, but if they do treat you cruelly or abuse you, they can be punished

The law doesn’t tell people how to behave in their ‘private relationships’ – but it will step in to stop someone who is being cruel, or violent or abusive to someone else. If an adult (who isn’t either of your parents or someone else who should be caring for you) is behaving like this towards you, they can be punished. Social workers, and may be even the police, can step in to make sure you are protected and treated properly.

Some adults you meet as you grow up will be working in a public service like school, hospital, or even the library. They are carrying out work for the Welsh government or for the local authority. Your rights mean that these adults have extra duties to treat you properly and to respect your rights. Some of these adults may also be in a ‘position of trust’ to you. This means that the adult has some kind of power over you. This power will be positive in most situations. People in positions of trust to you include teachers, social workers, doctors and nurses, youth workers and the police. They must not act in a way that abuses that trust or power.

If you are doing something wrong or unsafe, another adult may step in and talk to you, whether you know them or not. It will depend on the situation and where you are. If you are at a friend’s house, then the adults in charge there might tell you off. If you’re out in public and you do something wrong, or unsafe, an adult might talk to you about it. Only your parents can hit you (it's usually known as 'smacking') – and then only in some very limited circumstances. The only time another adult can hit you is if your parents have employed him or her to look after you and have told the person that they can do this. The law in Wales may change soon so that no one can hit a child. There’s more about this here.

If an adult you know is abusing you, either hurting you somehow or forcing you to touch him or her or have sex, he or she is breaking the law. If the adult has told you that what he or she is doing is a secret, and that you shouldn’t tell anyone then it is probably wrong. It might be hard to tell someone what is happening, but you should try and tell someone you trust.

Even if you want to be in this relationship, if you are under 16, and the other person is over 18, he or she could be breaking the law.

If the adult is someone in your family who you live with, or someone you are (or have been) in a serious relationship with, and is controlling you and threatening you so you can’t live properly, then they are breaking the law.

If someone is ‘in a position of trust’ then they shouldn’t try and have a relationship with you that includes having sex with you. This could be a teacher or a foster carer, a social worker or a youth worker. It could also include anyone like a sports coach or a priest or vicar at church. The only relationship they should have with you is what’s appropriate for their role at work. It doesn’t matter if you want the relationship too. If someone is in a position of trust to you, they are breaking the law if you are under 18.

You have the right not to be treated differently and unfairly for any reason. This is discrimination. In Wales, you shouldn’t be discriminated against because of your sex or your sexual orientation, your race or religion, or because you have a disability. You also shouldn’t be discriminated against because of marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or gender reassignment. This applies to adults who are involved in public services, like teachers, social workers or the police, but also people who provide private services. This could include adults such as shop workers, people at a cinema or somewhere like soft play or a theme park. If anyone treats you differently and unfairly for one of these reasons they are breaking the law. The way to deal with this in most cases is to make a complaint to the organisation or business that the person works for. If this doesn’t sort things out for you, you can take the matter further to court or a tribunal. The Equality Advisory Support Service can give you more information about this. If you’re being discriminated against at work, you can find out more in the Work section of this website.
Normally, it’s against the law to discriminate against someone because of their age, but this doesn’t always apply, especially if you are under 18. You can find out more about this in our section on Shops and Services.





We are very grateful to Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for generously giving their time and expertise to check the content of this section of the website. October 2018.