Essex: Winterbourne View abuse scandal a factor in dramatic rise of safeguarding alerts for vulnerable adults

ESSEX has seen a dramatic increase in alerts over the safeguarding of vulnerable adults, it has emerged.

Figures obtained by the East Anglian Daily Times show there were 4,370 safeguarding referrals in 2011/12, an increase of 154% on 2009/10.

Charities said the high-profile abuse scandal at Winterbourne View, Bristol – which saw six former staff jailed for ill-treating and neglecting patients – had made people more likely to raise concerns.

Essex Safeguarding Adults Board’s annual report said the hike in referrals did not necessarily mean there was more abuse. There were 4,370 referrals in Essex in 2011/12, up from 3,370 the year before.

The report said 27% of adult safeguarding alerts were substantiated in 2011/12, compared with 19% in 2010/11. The number of alerts unsubstantiated also rose, but not as sharply, from 33% in 2010/11 to 38% in 2011/12.

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A spokeswoman for Mencap said: “We hope that high profile abuse scandals like Winterbourne View, have raised awareness of the importance of reporting incidents of abuse, and that families, those working with vulnerable adults, and individuals themselves are now more likely to do so.

“What is crucial is that local areas have procedures in place to safeguard adults at risk of abuse and neglect and that safeguarding is taken seriously by all agencies concerned.”

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The report also reveals the agencies that have made the safeguarding adult referrals.

The number of alerts from police rose 83%; followed by friends/family/neighbours 64%; health sector 57%; mental health sector 56%; and social workers 44%.

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said: “In recent years there has been an increase in the number of safeguarding issues raised in Essex, which we welcome as it indicates that the public and professionals are not prepared to tolerate what they perceive as abuse or poor care practices.

“Essex encourages people, through such arenas as the AskSal (safeguarding adults line for members of the public) telephone helpline, to share their concerns. We then assess the issues to see if they are safeguarding matters or are issues that need re-directing elsewhere (such as the complaints process, the Police or Environmental Health for example).

“We believe that the results have increased due to Essex residents being more informed and more aware about safeguarding and professionals being better equipped to recognise potential safeguarding matters and we will continue to encourage the public’s active engagement in raising issues that concern them.”

You can contact ASKSAL on 08452 666663.

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