Thursday 20 June 2019

One in 10 have witnessed abuse of vulnerable adult – research

Safeguarding Ireland has called for tougher laws to combat abuse.

An elderly man at Rowheath House retirement home in Birmingham (Joe Giddens/PA)
An elderly man at Rowheath House retirement home in Birmingham (Joe Giddens/PA)

By David Young, Press Association

One in 10 Irish people have witnessed a vulnerable adult being abused in the last year, research has indicated.

A study commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland found that 10% of Irish adults have witnessed an incident of abuse.

The abuse came in various forms, such as an older person being forced to do something against their will, for instance with their finances or care.

The Red C research found that of those who witnessed abusive behaviour towards vulnerable adults, 47% discussed it with the person being abused, 40% discussed it with a trusted person and 12% did nothing.

Some 15% sought professional advice and 3% reported what they witnessed to an authority such as the HSE or Garda, the study found.

Four out of five (81%) of those who participated in survey said tougher laws would encourage them to take greater action to combat abuse.

Around the same number (82%) said they would find a dedicated 24-hour safeguarding helpline helpful.

Safeguarding Ireland said the results highlighted the need for greater resourcing of safeguarding vulnerable adults. The organisation called for more effective legislation and a 24-hour information and support helpline.

Safeguarding Ireland chair Patricia Rickard Clarke said: “The fact that 10% of Irish adults reported having witnessed abuse shows that official HSE figures (in excess of 10,000 alleged cases reported annually) are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Based on our adult population (over 18s) of approximately 3.8 million, this would imply an estimate of potentially 380,000 witnessed cases of adult abuse per annum.

The message from this research is clear – we need tougher laws to support people to take action and to call out abuse of vulnerable adults Safeguarding Ireland chair Patricia Rickard Clarke

“When a vulnerable, or frail elderly person is forced to do something against their will – be it to do with their finances, their care, or their liberty – it is abuse and this is against the law.”

The survey results were published at the start of a public awareness campaign on safeguarding.

Ms Rickard Clarke said 2015 legislation on Assisted Decision Making had been enacted but not implemented.

She highlighted that an Adult Safeguarding Bill had been in development in the Oireachtas since 2017.

“The research has told us that stronger laws, which are enforced, is what will drive the public to be more vigilant in tackling adult abuse,” she said.

“We need these pieces of legislation in force with urgency.”

Press Association

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