Most of England’s adult social services directors have seen a rise in adult safeguarding referrals during the recession, though the government has claimed this reflects increased awareness and not more abuse due to the downturn.
The finding came in an Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) survey, conducted last month, on the impact of the recession on departments, which found increased pressures across a range of services and reduced employment opportunities for disabled people.
Sixty per cent of directors had seen an increase in safeguarding referrals since October 2008, and 85% of this group said the situation had deteriorated since April 2009.
Action on Elder Abuse urges legislation
Action on Elder Abuse used the figures to renew criticisms of the Department of Health’s failure to commit to legislation to strengthen responses to protect adults at risk.
Policy and development manager Daniel Blake said: “This does beg the question of why the government continues to delay the introduction of adult safeguarding legislation.”
Legislation is one of campaigners’ key goals in the review of the 2000 No Secrets adult protection guidance, to which the government is yet to respond, despite a consultation closing last January.
DH: rise reflects greater vigilance
The DH attributed the increase in referrals to people feeling more able to report possible abuse, rather than any impact of the downturn on families, and described it as an “encouraging sign of greater vigilance”.
Adass president Jenny Owen said it was possible that the “higher profile of risk and vulnerability” following the Baby Peter case had led to “greater vigilance” by staff and the public.
But Blake hesitated to endorse this interpretation, saying current data was not comprehensive enough.
Fewer job opportunities for disabled
The survey of 54 directors – just over one-third of the total – found 56% had identified fewer paid or supported employment opportunities for disabled people since the recession began. Of this group, 86% said things had got worse since April 2009.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability network Radar, said the finding was “worrying” and urged practitioners to maintain high expectations of disabled people’s employment.
Owen said the results showed adults departments were facing increasing demands at a time when their budgets were under pressure from the downturn.
Other findings included that:-
● 46% of adult’s directors have seen increased demand for mental health/substance misuse services since October 2008.
● 38% have seen increased homelessness/temporary accommodation use.
● 31% have seen reduced income from care home charges.