Over 7,000 safeguarding concerns raised

A total of 7,884 safeguarding concerns were managed by the HSE’s National Safeguarding Office last year, according to the first annual data it has released.

The data collated for 2016 shows that 4,749 of the safeguarding concerns brought to the Office related to adults aged 18-64 years, and 3,029 related to adults over 65 years and of these 1,221 were over 80 years.

It also revealed:

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  • For those aged 18-64, the three main alleged abuse categories were; physical 48%, psychological 24% and sexual 11%.
  • For those over 65, the dominant categories were; alleged psychological abuse 27%, physical and financial 22% abuse.

Key trends emerging included:

  • Alleged physical abuse was highest in males aged 18-64.
  • Alleged sexual abuse was highest in females 18-64 but also represented an issue for younger males.
  • Alleged financial abuse was highest for males across all age categories, with the highest level in those over 80 years.
  • Alleged neglect increased with age with the highest level reported in females over 80.
  • Where alleged institutional abuse was reported it was highest in younger males.

The HSE said the key messages from the data report were:

The figures showed that there was a clear framework developed in the past two years to support staff in recognising and responding appropriately to concerns of abuse.

The report provided strong evidence that having a specially assigned official, a Designated Officer, within service settings, and the setting up of the HSE safeguarding Teams, had provided a more consistent method of communicating and co-coordinating the management of concerns between the HSE and HSE funded services.

Training was a core component of the work of the HSE’s National Safeguarding Office and this was facilitated across the public, voluntary and private sector. In total, there were 13,499 people trained in safeguarding in 2016, far exceeding the 8,000 target set. The training provided also focused on the human rights of the service user and being mindful of the steps to take in preventing abuse.

It was evident that there was a strong association between training and reporting which was serving to enshrine a positive, open culture where a zero tolerance approach to abuse was promoted. Training programmes in safeguarding had been well developed in the HSE and HSE funded services.

Concerns came from a wide variety of sources with voluntary agencies (38%) included in over 400 services reporting safeguarding concerns in 2016.

The system of recognising, responding and reporting concerns of abuse towards vulnerable adults does not have a legislative basis in this jurisdiction. Whilst the HSE was currently reviewing the policy to consider areas for improvement it was clear from operational feedback that there were limitations and challenges to work effectively in this area without a legislative basis and framework. The HSE welcomed recent developments to enact legislation in the safeguarding field.

Commenting on the figures, Mr. Tim Hanly, General Manager, HSE National Safeguarding Office said, “The publication of these figures shows the development of a strong process and system to recognise and report abuse. There is a zero tolerance approach to abuse that has made a positive difference.  We recently carried out a staff survey completed by over 1,400 staff who voiced strong confidence in the human rights principles underpinning this policy. These overall figures may appear to be high but the key issue is that we have appropriate systems in place to prevent abuse in the first place and people are supported when they raise concerns.”

Full data report is available on www.hse.ie/safeguarding