Six abuse cases in Suffolk every day

A “FRIGHTENING” increase in the number of vulnerable adults being abused in Suffolk can be revealed today - with fellow family members responsible for nearly a third of cases.

John Howard

A “FRIGHTENING” increase in the number of vulnerable adults being abused in Suffolk can be revealed today - with fellow family members responsible for nearly a third of cases.

More than 2,200 incidents have been reported to authorities in the county in the last year, more than six cases a day and an alarming rise of almost 95% compared to the previous 12 months.

They include sexual, physical, emotional and financial abuse, as well as neglect. Experts say incidents could range from the elderly being left all night in wet bedding, to people being hit for soiling a bed.

Last night, campaigners called for unannounced inspections at care homes and more respite breaks for those looking after elderly relatives.

Pensioners' groups also want greater access to counselling for stressed families where young men and women's careers may be threatened by the demands of caring for a loved one.

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Cliff Horne, chairman of the Suffolk Pensioners' Association, said: “This is frightening and you could add to these figures - some victims are frightened to come forward.

“We would like to see more respite care for carers within families. We would also like to see more counselling and unannounced visits at care homes.

“There is a lot of abuse and most if the time it is known who it is - it's a relative or a friend. There is also abuse from carers to vulnerable people in care homes, which is quite alarming. We are very concerned about this.”

Suffolk county councillor Graham Newman, who holds the portfolio for adult and community services with the authority, said: “This is a very serious issue, a huge concern, it seems to be ramping up on an exponential basis.

“Families are often landed with caring for an adult and it is not like choosing to have a child. Suddenly a parent who they may not have seen too much in the past 30 years is ill and needs support. Families have a crying need for respite, there are tensions.”

But Mr Newman said that in the past the issue had been hidden and nowadays people were more able to report problems, without fear of stigma or bullying.

He added: “There are 702,000 people within Suffolk and in one sense this is a very small percentage of people involved in the county involved in this. But we do want to nail true cases of abuse, and want to root out the extent of it.”

Suffolk County Council's Cabinet will meet next week to discuss the findings, detailed in the 2007 to 2008 annual report by the Adult Safeguarding Board - Suffolk.

The document highlights the fact that since the formation of the organisation there has been an increase in reports of abuse perpetrated upon vulnerable people.

It found that the number of incidents had risen from 1,153 in 2006/07, to 2,235 in the last year.

Around 31% of cases were allegations involving a family member, 13% involved professionals, 13% other service users, and in 43% of cases the perpetrator was unknown.

The Adult Safeguarding Board, made up of the likes of police, council, health and social care officials, believes the increase in figures is in part due to vigilance by staff across the county.

It says it will now continue to raise awareness of the issue, and do what it can to prevent incidents.

The report will be discussed by the council's Cabinet, on April 29.

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