Vulnerable adults: watchdog needed

National Safeguarding Committee finds worrying prevalence of abuse

 

A survey which found that half of the State’s vulnerable adults have been abused or seen somebody close to them abused is deeply shocking. The Red C survey was commissioned by the National Safeguarding Committee (NSC), which has called for legislation “which would provide for independent advocacy on behalf of vulnerable adults and a National Safeguarding Authority with a dedicated budget”.

Vulnerable adults are people who may be unable to protect themselves against being harmed or exploited due to illness, mental health problems, physical disability or intellectual disability. The survey showed widespread public concern that many vulnerable adults were experiencing and open to physical, emotional, psychological and financial abuse.

It found that physical abuse of vulnerable adults has been witnessed/suspected by one in three adults, often in the home. More than one in three had experienced emotional abuse and 38 per cent think vulnerable adults are badly treated. The findings confirm that cases of abuse are not confined to historical examples in institutions but prevalent across all sectors of our society. And they indicate a lack of clarity of how and where to report such abuse by those who witness it.

The NSC received 7,500 reports of abuse last year, an increase of 60 per cent on 2015. Some 40 per cent of reports related to people over 65, for whom financial abuse and psychological abuse are the most common. For those under 65, physical and emotional abuse were most prevalent.

An insidious abuse of younger adults with intellectual disabilities has emerged, where they are being enticed via the internet to share intimate photographs of themselves. Blackmail and emotional abuse are the result.

Patricia Rickard Clarke, chair of the NSC said the findings represented a worrying prevalence of vulnerable adult abuse. In addition to strengthening the legislative framework for safeguarding, she called for progress towards the establishment of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission.

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