Abuse of elderly in Hampshire rises by 79 per cent

THE NUMBER of reports of abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults in Hampshire has rocketed by 79 per cent.

The county council has dealt with 1,437 reported incidents, compared with 804 in 2008-9. Action was taken to stop the abuse in about 40 per cent of cases while a further 40 per cent were not proven.

Only three per cent of cases have a criminal investigation pending.

The council said the figures showed increased public awareness and better training to help staff spot if people are suffering rather than an actual increase in levels of abuse.

Elderly people, those with learning or physical disabilities and people with mental health issues are classed as vulnerable adults.

County councillor Felicity Hindson, executive member for adult social care, said: “These figures do show a dramatic increase in suspected cases of abuse but we would rather people reported their concerns to us so that allegations can be fully investigated and, in cases where evidence of abuse is found, vulnerable adults are given the protection they need.”

“Adult abuse can happen to anyone, anywhere and the responsibility for tackling it lies with all of us.”

County figures show more than half those alleged to have suffered some form of abuse are elderly, followed by people with learning disabilities.

Physical abuse and neglect are the most common followed by stealing, bullying and sexual abuse. As well as occurring in residential care and nursing homes, abuse also happens in victims’ own homes.

The council says a rise in reported neglect is due to strengthening of legislation and wider recognition of care that falls below set standards.

Paid carers, health professionals and the police reported most of the cases but there was a rise in self-referrals and complaints from relatives and neighbours.

The council says this shows the public know how to report concerns.

Figures in the annual report to Hampshire Safeguarding Adults Board show the police cautioned or prosecuted 17 people for adult abuse in the last year.

The report said social services had worked with the council’s legal department to safeguard those “who lack mental capacity from financial abuse.”

Three people were convicted of stealing and court action was taken to protect the finances of 20 individuals.

Care chiefs say counselling and support may be more appropriate in some cases, for example of an elderly person struggling to care for a partner with Alzheimer’s.

The report says: “One person may wish to take an abuser through the criminal justice system, whereas another may wish only for the abuse to stop. Safeguarding has to be sensitive to the needs and wishes of those at the centre of the process.”

Cllr Hindson said “Hampshire County Council takes every allegation of abuse seriously and robust safeguarding action is always taken to ensure people are safe and supported.

“Thankfully, following investigation it is often discovered that not all of these suspicions are actual cases of abuse. For instance, suspicions of physical abuse are not always deliberate acts of violence.

“Sometimes vulnerable people may suffer harm because those who look after them are not always aware of good care practices.”

The county council invested an extra £625,000 to increase the support to frontline staff involved in safeguarding vulnerable adults in 2009-10.

A DVD has been produced for use by organisations and community groups to help them understand the effects of abuse and what can be done to protect people.

To report concerns telephone 0845 6035630 or out-of-hours 0845 6004555.