Reports of abuse of vulnerable adults in Kent increase

Nurse and patient
Image caption Age UK said staff needed to be trained to recognise the signs of abuse

The number of reported cases of abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults in care in Kent has risen since 2005.

Figures given to BBC Radio Kent show the number of referrals to Kent County Council's safeguarding team increased from 1,367 in 2005 to 2,271 in 2011.

Kent County Council said the increase did not mean more problems but more awareness of the risks.

Charities for the elderly said budget cuts could increase the risk of abuse or neglect not being reported.

'Getting information through'

The referrals relate to allegations of abuse or neglect of elderly people in council-run or privately-run care homes as well as adults with learning disabilities, mental health issues and those with physical disabilities.

Dr John Beer, from the charity Action on Elder Abuse, said: "An increase in referrals may be that you're getting information through to people and they know what to do.

"Apart from more reporting, there is a greater number of vulnerable, older people.

"You can't expect, with a rising number of frailer older people, to be able to manage this system safely on a reducing budget and successive governments haven't wanted to get us the people to face up to this."

Sandra Springett, from Age UK in Tunbridge Wells, said she had seen cases of elderly abuse ranging from "from terrible physical violence abuse, to families and friends taking advantage of older people and not seeing anything wrong with that".

She added: "We need a well-trained workforce. "If people know how not to abuse somebody and know how to recognise the signs that would go a long way."

No Secrets

Ms Springett said Age UK's funding from the council had been reduced last year by 5%.

The council's cabinet member for adult social services, Graham Gibbens, said the authority had not cut grants to Age UK in Kent and that safeguarding was its top priority.

He said: "What we are asking Age UK across Kent to do is to think how they can provide the services as efficiently as possible.

"I'm delighted there has been an increased number of referrals. This means that people are being increasingly aware."

The authority said the counting of referrals had changed over the years with the implementation of the Department of Health's No Secrets guidance and new counting conventions.

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