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Sharp rise in reports of suspected abuse

Published on 04 October 2013 11:01 PM

New figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre reveal a steep increase in the number of reports of suspected abuse of older people.


In the last year there has been a 28.4% increase in alerts made to councils about abuse to older people.

The newest set of data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre emphasise the need for greater accountability for those providing care in the UK.

With the Care Bill in the committee stage of its parliamentary journey, the new data reveals the extent of the worries around abuse in the UK.

In 2012-13 local authorities received 173,000 alerts relating to the abuse of adults and took 112,000 of these forward as adult safeguarding referrals:

  • 60% of these concerned people aged 65 and over
  • Of these over 26% related to people aged 85 and over
  • Nearly 22% to those aged 75-84 and almost 12% to those aged 65-74
  • The remaining 40% of alerts concerned adults of working age (18-64)

Over a quarter of referrals relating to people aged 65 and over (25.8%) related to suspicions of physical abuse and over a third (35.6%) to cases of neglect. In addition to these however just over 18% of cases were of financial abuse, a form of abuse that is often overlooked.

No one held accountable in a third of abuse reports

Worryingly in over a third of completed referrals relating to people aged 65 and over (36%) no further action was taken against the alleged perpetrator and in a further 6% of completed referrals the outcome was ‘unknown'.

Age UK is asking for the Care Bill to go further in holding those providing care responsible for neglect or abuse. It would like to see powers tightened in the following four key areas:

  • Introducing a duty on care providers and other relevant partners to inform the local authority when they suspect an adult is at risk. The Care Bill will introduce a duty for local authorities to investigate when they suspect an adult is at risk but there is currently no provision for a corresponding duty on care providers to report these concerns.
  • Introducing a power of access to allow local authorities to carry out a confidential interview with a vulnerable adult believed to be at risk of abuse or neglect, when a third party is denying access to that person. This would only be able to be used as a last resort and would need to be applied for through the magistrates' court. A similar power already exists in Scotland.
  • A new offence of Corporate Neglect should be introduced to sanction care home or care agency managers who allow a culture of abuse and neglect to continue in their organisations.
  • A new offence of ill treatment or neglect should be introduced to extend protection to vulnerable adults who have mental capacity

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK says: ‘These numbers are disturbing: even though growing awareness of the abuse of older people is likely to have contributed to the increase in the number of safeguarding concerns reported to and taken forward by English councils. They concern some of the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom feel that they have no one to turn to for help.

‘Any abuse of older people is unacceptable and we need a zero tolerance approach to any abuse whether through neglect, financial manipulation or physical or mental cruelty. 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 Care Bill presents the ideal opportunity to ensure that vulnerable adults living in our community are given the best possible protection from neglect and abuse. We welcome the advances that the bill already makes in safeguarding older and disabled people but with some additional changes, that protection could be so much more effective.

'We want to see stronger powers to investigate suspected abuse where a third person is denying access to the person, a new offence of neglect of a vulnerable person who has mental capacity, and an offence of corporate neglect so that directors of care providers can be held to account for neglect.'

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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