Social services sees rise in adults at risk of physical and sexual abuse
Social services departments have seen a rise in the numbers of vulnerable adults referred to them because they are at risk of physical and sexual abuse, as well as financial fraud, a study has found.
The survey of directors of adult services suggests the fallout from the death of Baby Peter has influenced social workers’ attitudes to vulnerable adults – with more older people or those with a learning disability deemed to be at risk of abuse being referred for assessment.
It also shows a “marked increase” in demand in recent months for a range of other services, including welfare advice and help with homelessness, mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse.
The survey was carried out by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) in September. Just over a third of its membership responded.
Of the directors who responded, 60% said that the number of safeguarding referrals had increased since October 2008, and 85% said referrals had increased again since April.
Speaking ahead of the national children and adults conference that opens today in Harrogate, the Local Government Association (LGA) warned that adults’ services were coming under increasing strain and called for reform of the way adult social services are funded to meet the explosion in demand and escalating costs.
Cllr David Rogers, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board said: “Let’s be clear, we cannot wait any longer to fix the system. The combination of insufficient funding, increased demand from an ageing society and escalating costs is already placing an immeasurable strain on adult social care.
“Town halls are doing an incredible job ensuring that the vulnerable members of our society get the services they need, but the system is not fit for the challenges of the 21st century.
Jenny Owen, Adass president, said there was no single explanation for the increases in referrals to adults’ services, but that it demonstrated the increased pressure adult social services departments were coming under. Owen said: “In some cases, recessionary forces will have led more and more people to our doors for advice and support.
“In others – for example, in the increase in the number of adult safeguarding referrals – it might be that the higher profile of risk and vulnerability has led to a greater vigilance by our care staff and by members of the public alike.”
She added: “We are well aware of the current state of the economy and the pressures that is bound to have on public sector budgets generally.
“But that should not allow us to hide from the fact that, however measured and whatever the cause, levels of social need are rising at the same time as our ability to respond to them is being reduced.”