THERE has been a surge in the number of reports alleging abuse of vulnerable adults in Cork and Kerry in the past two years.
The number of cases of abuse, including physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse, as well as neglect and discrimination, increased almost 35% in Cork/Kerry between 2016 and 2018, a new report has found.
There were 1,628 safeguarding concerns reported to HSE safeguarding and protection teams (SPTs) in Cork and Kerry last year, compared to around 1,060 in 2016.
Centres for adults with disabilities accounted for 57% of reports of abuse nationwide, while 30% came from community settings along with another 5% from centres for older people.
For people aged 18 to 64, the most significant category is physical abuse at 50% of cases, followed by psychological at 31%.
For people aged over 65, the most significant category is psychological abuse at 33%, physical at 26% and financial abuse at 21%.
Alleged financial abuse and neglect increase with age, with the highest level of reporting by people over 80 years.
Safeguarding Ireland chairperson Patricia Rickard Clarke said action can be taken to help reduce the high level of abuse among older adults, particularly psychological abuse.
“Currently the Child and Family Agency Tusla, whose main remit is child safeguarding, is the only State agency which can directly make applications to the court for protection orders on behalf of vulnerable people who are at risk,” said Ms Rickard Clarke.
“However, it is the HSE Safeguarding teams who are most at the frontline in identifying and dealing with abuse cases of vulnerable adults. It is clear that they need greater powers respond to risk.”
Safeguarding Ireland is calling for the Domestic Violence Act 2018 to be amended to empower social workers in the nine regionally based HSE safeguarding teams to be able to make court applications for protection orders on behalf of vulnerable adults where they deem fit.
The group is also calling for the offence people who knowingly and persistently engage in the psychological abuse of a vulnerable person.
“Doing so — combined with effective mediation, assessment of risk, and inter-agency collaboration — will in particular help to reduce psychological abuse among those over 65,” said Ms Rickard Clarke.