Elder abuse reports increase by 30%

Reports of alleged abuse of older people and persons with disabilities increased by almost 30% in the past year, it has emerged.

There were 10,118 safeguarding concerns raised with the HSE last year, a 28% increase from 2016, with the largest increase recorded for those aged 18 to 64.

Of the concerns reported to the HSE’s National Safeguarding Teams, 7,199 came from a service setting and 2,915 from the community.

An analysis of the reporting rate shows that the rate increases with age — concerns about women are higher in all age categories but reporting increases three-fold for men aged over 80.

HSE National Safeguarding Office general manager, Tim Hanly, said the report showed there was a “significant increase” in safeguarding concerns notified to the health authority in the past year. 

However, “much more” work needed to be done to increase awareness of abuse and inter-agency collaboration was essential.

“The picture emerging from the 2017 data is that while the reported types of alleged abuse have remained consistent in percentage terms, there is a significant overall increase in overall reported notifications to the HSE,” said Mr Hanly.

The report found:

  • For persons aged under 65, physical abuse is the most significant category at 46%.
  • Psychological abuse and financial abuse at 31% and 22% remains the most significant category for those aged over 65.
  • In cases of alleged financial abuse, a son or daughter accounted for 40% of cases for those aged over 65 with a further 24% being another relative.
  • The overall percentage of cases with an agreed outcome of “reasonable grounds for concern” with the health authority’s Safeguarding and Protection team, at 50%, compares with 47% in 2016.
  • Another service user is the main person causing concern for those aged 18 to 64. This drops to 23% in the over 65 age group, with sons or daughters (29%) being the main source of concern.
  • Of the 10,118 concerns dealt with last year, 430 related exclusively to self- neglect with no person causing concern.
  • When all cases are considered self-neglect reflects 5% of the total alleged abuse categories. More self-neglect cases are evident in the 65 to 79 age category by a ration of three to two.

Training and public awareness increased the level of concerns notified to the HSE safeguarding service. The training target of 17,000 was exceeded by 30% last year, with more than 23,000 people trained.

The HSE takes a “zero tolerance” approach to abuse and points out that most of the concerns (79%) are once-off. 

High-level repeat referrals only accounted of 2% of the total last year.

However, it points out that international research relating to elder abuse indicates that they are still only seeing the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the level of abuse that exists in society and what is reported.

The report was published yesterday to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Separately, the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland also published a new guide to help people safeguard their money and protect themselves from financial abuse.

The guide, published on behalf of AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, Ulster Bank and KBC, provides tips and advice for people to prepare for a time when they may need help in managing their money.

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