'Disturbing rise' in elderly abuse reports, Age UK warns

Nurse and elderly patient Age UK said it fears there are still many more cases that are not reported

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There has been a "disturbing" rise in the numbers of reports of possible abuse of vulnerable elderly people in England, the charity Age UK has warned.

Analysis of data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) showed a 4% rise in the number of cases of alleged abuse referred for investigation in the past year.

Age UK urged the government to do more to protect vulnerable adults.

The government said more measures were in the process of being introduced.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "No-one should suffer abuse or neglect in a place they are meant to feel safe in, whether this is in their own home or in a care setting."

A new Chief Inspector for Social Care would hold local areas to account for abuse, the spokesman added. New measures were also being considered to make directors of care homes and hospitals personally and criminally accountable for failures in care if they allowed neglect and abuse to take place.

HSCIC figures showed that the number of cases referred for investigation by councils in England rose from 108,000 in 2011/2012, to 112,000 in 2012/2013.

Of these, 38% of the alleged abuse took place in the older person's home, while 45% took place in a care home.

Physical abuse and neglect were the most common types of abuse reported.

In 6% of cases the alleged abuser was the older person's partner, in 16% it was another family member and in 37% a social care worker.

'Zero tolerance'

Three fifths of the referrals were for vulnerable adults - those described in the report as people who "are or may be in need of community care services" because they are "elderly or suffer mental illness, a disability or another ailment", aged 65 or over.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: "These numbers are disturbing: even though growing awareness of the abuse of older people is likely to have contributed to the increase in the number of safeguarding concerns reported to and taken forward by English councils, they concern some of the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom feel that they have no-one to turn to for help.

"Any abuse of older people is unacceptable and we need a zero-tolerance approach to any abuse, whether through neglect, financial manipulation or physical or mental cruelty.

"Our biggest fear is that there are still many cases that are not reported and we would encourage anyone who suspects that an older person is being abused to contact their social services department or the police straight away."

Age UK urged people to call the its advice line on 0800 1696565 if they suspect an older person is being abused.

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