Wokingham care staff in abuse claims

Nearly 100 care staff were accused of abusing vulnerable adults in Wokingham borough last year, but just 14 were disciplined.

New figures show there was also a dramatic increase in the number of reports of abuse against vulnerable adults, including the elderly, mentally ill, drug addicts and disabled, in the last year.

Referrals to Wokingham Borough Council have increased by 80 per cent to 380 people over the last 12 months.

Of these 380 people, 192 were elderly and 152 had a learning disability.

The recorded types of abuse include 181 physical, 106 neglect, 79 psychological, 62 financial, 45 sexual, 17 institutional and four discriminatory.

The level of seriousness varies in the cases, however investigations of the reports so far show that 55 per cent of them were substantiated or partly substantiated.

The alleged perpetrators include 118 paid staff, with 92 of these working as care staff, some of whom are council staff and others are working for outside organisations in Wokingham, such as care homes.

However, council figures show just 14 of the 118 staff have been disciplined to date.

Mike Wooldridge, development and improvement team manager for adult social care services at Wokingham Borough Council, explained in some cases staff may have been dealt with in other ways, such as training.

He said: “It does look on the face of it that very few people have been disciplined.

“That might well be the case but it might not always be appropriate to discipline staff – it might be a training issue, they don’t necessarily need to be dismissed or disciplined.”

Other alleged perpetrators of abuse include 88 vulnerable adults, 65 family members, 37 partners, and 27 friends/neighbours.

The council has put the dramatic increase in referrals down to greater awareness of the types of abuse vulnerable adults can fall victim to and improved reporting mechanisms.

The figures were presented to the council’s health overview and scrutiny committee earlier this month.

Comments from councillors who heard the presentation included it was “sickening” to know only 14 had been disciplined when “they should all be fired”.

Further strain could be put on the council’s social workers who investigate abuse accusations as Thames Valley Police is proposing cutting its specialist adult co-ordinator role in a shake-up of the protecting vulnerable people unit.

The co-ordinator works with social workers at the council and other involved organisations when incidents of abuse are reported.

Their involvement includes deciding whether criminal charges should be brought in the case.

Geoff Matthews, operations manager for Age UK Berkshire, said: “Any form of abuse is unacceptable, no matter what the justification or reason may be given.

“It is very important that older people have the confidence that any complaint they may make will be fully investigated.

“Although the number of claims has risen this does not automatically mean that abuse itself is on the increase.

“The large majority of people caring for the elderly and disabled are kind, caring individuals, whether family or employees of local authorities or individual companies.

“Age UK in Berkshire is pleased to work with local authorities across Berkshire to reduce abuse and to ensure that all abuse is reported and the necessary action taken

“The elderly and disabled are very vulnerable and have to be protected from abuse.”