More vulnerable people are being abused or neglected, according to the latest figures.
Finalised data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reveals there were 176,000 safeguarding alerts reported in 2012/13 by 132 councils.
A vulnerable adult is defined as somebody whose illness, age or disability means they are unable take care of themselves or unable to protect themselves from significant harm or exploitation.
The allegations unearthed by the research cover a wide range of scenarios. These include the neglect of a person's health and wellbeing, physical or mental abuse towards them and the misuse of their money.
‘There are no excuses’ for failing to keep people safe
For the 119 councils across England that submitted data in both 2011/12 and 2012/13, the HSCIC found a 20% rise in reports - equating to 27,000 more alerts.
In light of the figures, care and support minister Norman Lamb is calling for greater protection of vulnerable people.
'No-one should suffer abuse or neglect in a place they are meant to feel safe in, whether this is in their own home or in a care setting,' he said.
'There are no excuses for failing to keep people in receipt of care and support safe, or not treating them with kindness, dignity and respect.
'The rise in alerts is concerning and we expect local authorities to take swift action where evidence or allegations of abuse are uncovered.'
Overall, the figures show that councils referred 109,000 reports to their local safeguarding team for investigation.
Rise in alerts ‘concerning’
Some 61% of these referrals were for women, 62% were for adults aged 65 or over, and 51% were for people with a physical disability.
Physical and neglect were the two most common types of abuse reported, featuring in 28% and 27% of cases respectively.
Some 39% of abuse cases occurred in the home, while 36% were recorded in care homes. A social care worker was listed as the person most commonly abusing the adult (32%) followed by partner or family member (23%).
'The new chief inspector of social care also has a powerful role to play in protecting vulnerable adults,' added Mr Lamb.
'By holding unannounced inspections and involving police in safeguarding issues, we can make sure we respond more quickly to abuse and take strong action against perpetrators.'
'There must be zero tolerance of any abuse'
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK says:
‘These numbers are disturbing. Any abuse of older people is intolerable and there must be zero tolerance of any abuse whether through neglect, financial manipulation or physical or mental cruelty.
‘Although it is likely that growing awareness of the abuse of older people may have contributed to some of the increase in the number of referrals to Safeguarding Boards by English councils, these cases concern some of the most vulnerable members of our society, many of whom feel that they have no one to turn to for help.
‘Our biggest fear is that there are still many cases that are not reported and we would encourage anyone who suspects that an older person is being abused to contact their social services department or the police straight away.
‘The Age UK Advice Line on 0800 1696565 can give advice on what to do if you suspect an older person is being abused.’
Copyright Press Association 2014