Irish public believes abuse of vulnerable adults is widespread
New law and public information campaign planned to tackle problem
11 April 2017: Half of all Irish adults say they have experienced the abuse of vulnerable adults either through being abused themselves or seeing somebody close to them abused, according to the results of new research being published today.
The research, commissioned from Red C by the National Safeguarding Committee, shows widespread public concern that many vulnerable adults are open to and are experiencing physical, emotional, psychological and financial abuse.
Among the research findings are:
- Physical abuse of vulnerable adults has been witnessed/suspected by 1 in 3 adults, very often in the home.
- Over 1 in 3 has experienced emotional abuse.
- Almost 2 in 5 (38%) think vulnerable adults are badly treated. One in three believes vulnerable adult abuse to be widespread.
- There is significant public concern about the need to safeguard those who are limited in their ability to protect themselves.
- There is a lack of clarity over where to report vulnerable adult maltreatment, particularly among the young
Adults who may be vulnerable are those who may be restricted in their capacity to guard themselves against harm or exploitation, possibly as a result of illness, dementia, mental health problems, physical disability or intellectual disability.
According to the NSC Chair Patricia Rickard Clarke: “The members of this Committee have come together with one objective in mind: To ensure that adults who may be vulnerable are safeguarded and that there is a zero tolerance of abuse. These research findings indicate a very worrying prevalence of vulnerable adult abuse, uncertainty over what constitutes psychological and financial abuse, and a lack of knowledge of what to do when you become aware of the abuse of vulnerable adults.
“These survey results will provide a baseline against which progress in developing public awareness and changing attitudes and behaviour can be measured. We are now planning a public awareness campaign on the issue of abuse of vulnerable adults, and we would urge the Government to introduce legislation which would provide for independent advocacy on behalf of vulnerable adults and a National Safeguarding Authority with a dedicated budget.”
The Minister of State at the Departments of Social Protection, Justice & Equality and Health Mr Finian McGrath said: “The research commissioned by the National Safeguarding Committee suggests a startling prevalence of abuse of vulnerable adults, as well as a lack of clarity of how and where to report such abuse when it is witnessed. Society and Government have a duty of care towards all of its citizens, particularly those who are more vulnerable. Measures to tackle this issue are not the preserve of any one Government Department. This is a cross-departmental issue and I intend to work across departments to agree measures to protect our vulnerable adults from abuse.”
Any vulnerable adult can be subject to abuse, Ms Rickard Clarke said. Recent cases of historical practices and institutional abuse in Ireland have led to significant public concern about safeguarding our most vulnerable citizens.
She said: “In addition to strengthening the legislative framework for safeguarding, the National Safeguarding Committee wants to see progress towards the establishment of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission. This will provide support to adults whose capacity for making decisions is in question. It must be given adequate resources.
“This Service is provided for in the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 which we would like to see fully commenced as soon as possible. This legislation aims to prevent exploitation of this vulnerable group of adults and to ensure that their will and preferences are respected in areas such as health, personal welfare, property and financial matters.”
The Red C Poll findings can be accessed here
The members of the Committee are:
Pat McLoughlin CEO Alzheimers Society of Ireland
Ms Susan Kent Department of Health
Ms Miriam Finnegan Department of Social Protection
Det Sgt Jennifer Molony & Inspector John Lynch An Garda Siochana
Mr Brian O’Donnell CEO National Federation of Voluntary Bodies
Mr Mark Blake Knox Not-For-Profit Organisation
Ms Joan O’Connor Policy and Research Officer, Disability Federation of Ireland
Mr Phelim Quinn CEO Health Information and Quality Authority
Mr Eamon Timmins CEO Age Action
Ms Louise O’Mahony Banking and Payment Federation Ireland
Ms Mary Keane Deputy Director General The Law Society
Ms Maureen Kavanagh CEO Active Retirement Ireland
Ms Catherine Cox Head of Communications Family Carers Ireland
Ms Siobhan Nunn HSE Principal Social Worker from Safeguarding and Protection Team
Mr Paddy Connolly CEO Inclusion Ireland
Dr David Robinson Consultant Representation RCPI
Mr Michael Fitzgerald HSE Social Care Management
Mr Pat Carey COSC
Mr Mervyn Taylor Manager SAGE
Mr Brendan O’Shea Irish College of General Practitioners
Ms Patricia Gilheaney CEO, Mental Health Commission
Ms Ann Marie O’Connor Business Manager, MABS
Mr Tom Fitzpatrick Chartered Accountants of Ireland
Ms Phil Ni Sheaghdha ICTU
Dr Cathal Morgan HSE Social Care Division
Mr Tim Hanly Manager HSE National Safeguarding Officer
Ms Marguerite Clancy HSE Senior Research and Information Officer
Dr Verena Keane Faculty of Learning Disability, College of Psychiatrists
Dr Maria Moran Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry, College of Psychiatrists
Patricia Rickard-Clarke Independent Chair