Less than a fifth of adults who experience abuse report it to authorities who could take action, research published on Friday says.
The survey of 1,000 adults also found 44 per cent of adults had experienced abuse but of these, 41 per cent did nothing at all about it and half of these didn’t because they did not know who to tell. Just 9 per cent reported the adult abuse to the gardaí and 9 per cent to a health and social care professional.
Conducted by market researchers Red C, the study was commissioned by Adult Safeguarding Ireland and is published on November 11th to coincide with adult safeguarding day. Its chairwoman, Patricia Rickard-Clarke, said a key message had to be that more people should report abuse.
There is no legal requirement on care professionals to report abuse, even severe abuse, or neglect of adults. Safeguarding reviews are not published
However, the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) says that without a legal requirement on health professionals to report abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults, these people will remain seriously at risk. It was “dismaying” that vulnerable adults remained so poorly protected in policy and legislation, it said, adding that social workers must have legal access to vulnerable adults at risk of abuse where those adults could not express their own views. The practice of HSE managers making safeguarding decisions “must end”, it added.
There is no legal requirement on care professionals to report abuse, even severe abuse, or neglect of adults. Safeguarding reviews are not published.
Dr Vivian Geiran, chairman of the IASW, said a year after the publication of the Brandon report – into the sexual abuse of intellectually disabled adults between 2003 and 2011 in a HSE-run residential facility in Donegal – many of the issues that enabled this abuse to continue still pertained.
“The Brandon report clearly highlighted that ignoring expert social work safeguarding advice is harmful for adults experiencing abuse,” he said.
Call for legislation
A position paper, published on Friday by the IASW, calls for comprehensive legislation and the establishment of a dedicated, independent authority in adult safeguarding, reporting to the Department of Children, Equality and Disability; the introduction of mandatory reporting of abuse “by key personnel in certain circumstances”; legal powers for social workers to access adults at risk who are unable to freely express their will and preferences; and the routine, full publication of safeguarding reviews so frontline workers could learn and improve practice.
Adult Safeguarding Ireland reiterated its call for full use to be made of the assisted decision-making service when it begins functioning next year.
“New laws on decision-making are expected to come into effect in early 2023 – the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Act,” said Ms Rickard-Clarke. “These will place a greater responsibility on organisations to support the decision-making of adults who may be frail, have a physical or intellectual disability, or be after a serious crash.”
An important element of preventing abuse is for all adults – as much as possible – to make their own care, health, lifestyle, financial and accommodation decisions, and to receive appropriate support to do so if needed, she said.