NEW figures reveal there has been a rise in the number of safeguarding referrals for vulnerable adults claiming to have been abused.
Hartlepool Borough Council has produced the annual figures which show between April 1, 2012 and March 31, this year, there were 533 alerts identifying possible cases of abuse or neglect, 210 of which led to an actual referral and further investigation.
The number of alerts in the previous 12-months was 547, but the number of referrals rose from 178 in 2011-12 to 210 last year.
Officers say neglect was the most frequent cause of abuse, while 62 per cent of the alleged victims were over 65, with the majority of reported abuse coming from a care home setting and in the main care workers are the reported perpetrators.
Councillors sitting on the council’s adult services committee met yesterday to discuss the latest figures.
Labour councillor Ged Hall, a committee member and former portfolio holder, said he didn’t believe the increase in referrals meant an increase in abuse, but said he believed people felt more confident in making a complaint.
But Coun Hall added: “There are still some people very reluctant to come forward.”
Jill Harrison, the council’s assistant director of adult social care, said it was important to keep promoting the issue so people felt more comfortable reporting any cases of alleged abuse and said more pre-emptive work was being carried out in care homes to prevent safeguarding issues arising in the first place.
John Lovatt, head of service within adult social care, said: “We all need to work together to help keep people safe.”
Stephen Thomas, from HealthWatch Hartlepool which aims to help improve health and social care, said: “A high number of safeguarding reports come from the care home sector and that is particularly worrying for us.
“There still appears to be a reluctance to make complaints and that would suggest that this is not the full picture of the situation within care homes.”
Mrs Harrison added: “We can’t say for sure that this is the 100 per cent picture for Hartlepool and there are some cases that we are not aware of.”
In 2012-13, 323 alerts required no further action in terms of safeguarding measures and officers say those cases were “appropriately managed” by social work and care management teams.
Within that reporting period, 38 per cent of alleged victims were under the age of 65 and 62 per cent over 65 and while care homes continue to be the most common location of reported abuse, the actual number of cases has dropped by 24 per cent.
Neglect is the most frequent cause of abuse, followed by physical abuse, financial, emotional and sexual abuse.
Other reported perpetrators include other vulnerable adults, relatives and family members and for the first time self-harm has been reported in the statistics.
Committee members also noted an action plan from Hartlepool Safeguarding Adults Board for the next 12-months at the meeting.