Organisation for ‘vulnerable’ adults receives 7,500 reports of abuse

Newly established National Safeguarding Committee says problem is ‘very widespread’

The National Safeguarding Committee is publishing poll findings that reveal that one in two adults has experienced abuse of a vulnerable adult

The National Safeguarding Committee is publishing poll findings that reveal that one in two adults has experienced abuse of a vulnerable adult

 

A State body established to protect vulnerable adults received more than 7,500 reports of abuse last year, its first full year of operation.

Soon-to-be-published figures from the National Safeguarding Committee (NSC) will show a 60 per cent increase in reported incidents of abuse in 2016, compared with 2015.

The committee, established within the Health Service Executive (HSE) in 2015, began operating in January 2016. It investigates allegations of physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse against vulnerable adults.

On Tuesday it publishes poll findings that reveal that one in two adults has experienced abuse of a vulnerable adult, either of themselves or someone they know, and an under-awareness about where to report it.

A vulnerable adult is anyone over the age of 18 who has dementia, mental health problems, an acquired brain injury or a physical or intellectual disability.

Siobhán Nunn, principal social worker in safeguarding in the Kildare/West Wicklow/South Dublin and member of the NSC, said such abuse was “huge, very widespread”.

Among the headline findings of the committee’s report were that 40 per cent of reports related to people over 65, for whom financial abuse and psychological abuse were the most common. For those under 65, physical abuse and emotional abuse were most common.

Younger adults

“We had one case where a man in his 70s phoned and he was very distressed. He had had to go into hospital for a procedure and had given his bank card and details to his daughter to pay an outstanding bill. When he was home and recovering he discovered someone had used his card to take out a lot of money and set up standing orders without his permission,” Ms Nunn said.

“He went to his bank very upset and they helped him change his card and cancel the standing orders and to set up his own so he had control over his finances and didn’t need anyone’s help. The bank put him in touch with us.”

She said an emerging abuse of younger adults with intellectual disabilities was where they were being enticed via the internet to share intimate photographs of themselves.

“They are then being blackmailed or emotionally abused that their family or friends will be told and they are being asked to give money.”

When a report was received, said Ms Nunn, a social worker was assigned to investigate. A difficulty, however, was that social workers could not compel a family or relative to allow them to assess an adult victim of alleged abuse, unlike in cases involving children.

“We need legislation and more resources,” she said. Where there were concerns about serious criminal abuse, the Garda Síochána was notified.

Findings published on Tuesday, drawn from a Red C poll of 1,004 nationally representative adults, find one third of respondents (32 per cent) with experience of vulnerable adult abuse cited emotional abuse, 20 per cent cited abuse by a service provider and, 18 per cent ageist abuse. Financial, physical and disability abuse was each experienced by 16 per cent of respondents while 10 per cent identified sexual abuse.