Abuse of vulnerable adults: cases referred by English councils up 11 per cent in a year

  • Care workers and family most common alleged abusers, provisional figures show

Information to council level is available from this report

English councils referred 108,000 cases of alleged abuse against vulnerable adults for investigation in 2011-12, an 11 per cent (11,000) rise on 2010-11, provisional figures show.

Alongside this information on referrals (submitted by all 152 councils in England), data submitted to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) also suggests alleged abuse is most commonly at the hands of carers or family.

Today’s report; Abuse of Vulnerable Adults in England 2011-12: Experimental Statistics; considers alerts to councils and the subsequent referrals they make. An alert is usually the first contact between someone concerned about potential abuse and a Council with Adult Social Services Responsibilities (CASSR). If these concerns meet the council’s safeguarding thresholds, an investigation is opened and categorised as a referral.

133,000 alerts were reported by 121 councils in 2011-12; of which 130,000 had key information (gender age and client type) recorded.

Considering only the 99 councils who submitted alert data in both years, there was a 23 per cent (21,000) increase.

The increase in alerts and referrals may be influenced by several factors alongside a rise in actual abuse. Council feedback indicates a number of changes to staffing, training and recording systems during the reporting year and an increase in public awareness campaigns.

Today’s report also shows that the rate of referral in 2011-12 according to population size was highest in the Midlands; with 338 and 322 per 100,000 of the population in the West Midlands and East Midlands respectively. The rate was lowest in the South West with 151 per 100,000 of the population.

Considering the 83,000 completed referrals for which a case conclusion was reached in 2011-12; 41 per cent (34,000) were fully or partially substantiated, while 31 per cent (26,000) were not substantiated. In 27 per cent of cases (23,000) an outcome could not be determined.

106,000 (of the 108,000) referrals reported in 2011-12 had key information recorded (gender, age and client type). Of these, the vulnerable adult was female in 61 per cent of cases (65,000); aged 65 or over in 60 per cent of cases; and had a physical disability in nearly half of cases (49 per cent, or 52,000).

Considering the most commonly recorded types of alleged abuse, place of abuse and perpetrator (all of which can be recorded in more than one instance within the same referral):

Alleged perpetrators:

  • A social care worker was recorded in 31,000 instances.
  • A family member was recorded in 24,000 instances.

Types of alleged abuse:

  • Physical abuse was recorded in 39,000 instances.
  • Neglect was recorded in 34,000 instances
  • Financial abuse was recorded in 25,000 instances.

Place of abuse:

  • The vulnerable adult’s own home was recorded in 43,000 instances.
  • A care home was recorded in 39,000 instances.

HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: “A vulnerable adult is a person who receives or might need community care services due to disability, age or illness. They may be unable to take care of themself, or to protect themself against significant harm or exploitation.

“Today’s report addresses the distressing subject of when these adults are potentially being subject to abuse within our own society, seemingly often in their own home or within a care setting – and sometimes by somebody in a position of trust.

“This is a clearly a complex area, which must be considered when interpreting these provisional findings. However the statistics do point towards a considerable increase in the number of cases councils refer for investigation in relation to potential abuse towards vulnerable adults.”

The report can be accessed at: www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/abuseva1112 

HSCIC has also published another report today, which contains provisional findings about the money spent on adult social care by Councils with Adult Social Services Responsibilities during 2011-12: Personal Social Services: Expenditure and Unit Costs, England 2011-12 Provisional Release’ . This report can be accessed at: www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/pssexpcosts1112


Notes to editors

  1. HSCIC was previously known as the NHS Information Centre. It is England’s authoritative, independent source of health and social care information. It works with a wide range of health and social care providers nationwide to provide the facts and figures that help the NHS and social services run effectively. Its role is to collect data, analyse it and convert it into useful information which helps providers improve their services and supports academics, researchers, regulators and policymakers in their work. The HSCIC also produces a wide range of statistical publications each year across a number of areas including: primary care, health and lifestyles, screening, hospital care, population and geography, social care and workforce and pay statistics.
  2. Findings are provisional as CASSRs have a further opportunity to update their data during November 2012. A final report with more detailed findings will be produced in March 2013.
  3. Experimental statistics” are new official statistics that are under going evaluation. A key part of the“Experimental statistics” label is user engagement in the evaluation of those statistics. The NHS IC invites readers to comment on this publication, which will help inform the next report. Comments may be sent to enquiries@ic.nhs.uk.
  4. A referral is recorded when a report of alleged abuse leads to an adult protection investigation/assessment relating to the concerns reported. Referrals in this report are safeguarding referrals, not referrals for community care assessments, which are analysed for the HSCIC’s Referrals, Assessments and Packages of Care (RAP) return.
  5. Although 101 councils submitted alert data in 2010-11, two of these councils were unable to submit data in 2011-12.
  6. HSCIC liaises closely with organisations to encourage submission of complete and valid data and seeks to minimise inaccuracies. However, figures are reliant upon the accurate and complete recording of referral cases by councils
  7. Adults refer to those aged 18 and over. A vulnerable adult is a person who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation in any care setting. This includes individuals in receipt of social care services, those in receipt of other services such as health care, and those who may not be in receipt of services.
  8. Regions referred to in this press release are Government Office Region (GOR) areas.
  9. For media enquires please call 0845 257 6990 or contact mediaenquiries@ic.nhs.uk