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Almost 8,000 cases of adult abuse or neglect reported to HSE

  • 12 Jun 2017

Officials believe the figures under-represent the extent of abuse that exists

Colm Keena, 12th June 2017

The Irish Times

Almost 8,000 cases of adults suffering suspected abuse or neglect were reported to the Health Service Executive (HSE) last year, new figures show.

It is the first time national figures for suspected abuse of both elderly people and vulnerable adults have been collected and published.

Officials believe the figures under-represent the extent of the abuse that exists, with a very low rate of cases being reported by familes, carers, home helps, gardaí and GPs.

A survey conducted last year found that one in three people believe that the abuse of vulnerable people is “widespread”.

Up to now, only national figures on elder abuse were made available. More than half of the reports received last year were for vulnerable adults aged 18-64. The most common types of reported abuse for this category was physical (48 per cent), psychological (24 per cent) and sexual abuse (11 per cent).

For those over 65, the most common type of reported abuse were psychological (27 per cent), physical (22 per cent) and financial abuse (21 per cent).

The latter involves situations where someone is given charge of the finances of an adult. Other types of abuse include neglect, institutional abuse, and self-neglect.

Worrying figures

In total 7,884 reports of suspected abuse were received by the HSE last year. In 47 per cent of cases it was decided there were reasonable grounds for taking action. In 31 per cent no grounds for action were found and in 22 per cent of cases it was decided that further inquiries should be made.

The figures were released by the National Safeguarding Committee (NSC), which was established in 2014 to bring greater focus on the issue of the abuse of vulnerable adults.

Vulnerable adults include people living with dementia, mental health problems, physical disability or intellectual disability.

NSC chair Patricia Rickard Clarke said the figures showed a worrying prevalence of adult abuse.

“There is a lack of public understanding as to what actually constitutes abuse and what safeguarding means for vulnerable adults who are most at risk. This is shown in that families and individuals reported relatively few cases.”

Most reports came from service providers and nurses.

“These are abuses of people’s liberties and rights – including vulnerable people who lack capacity,” Ms Rickard Clarke said.

Financial abuse

A particular area of concern is financial abuse. She believed the figures released are “just the tip of the iceberg”. Once permission to manage a vulnerable person’s money is handed over to someone else, there is no monitoring as to how that money is then spent and allocated.

“The majority of people are honourable, but figures suggest that in up to 20 per cent of cases financial abuse occurs.”

A dedicated support number has been established by the national safeguarding office at (061) 461 358 which the public can call for advice and to be directed to the appropriate services.