Social workers are reducing risks for more adults subject to alleged abuse or neglect, official statistics show.
More adult safeguarding cases were investigated in 2014-15 than 2013-14 but a greater proportion of these resulted in the risks to the adult concerned being reduced or removed.
The findings were contained in statistics released today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
These showed that there was an increase in the number of concluded safeguarding referrals, from 88,080 in 2013-14 among the 145 councils that provided data, to 105,525 among 151 councils in 2014-15.
The proportion of referrals where where no action was taken fell and there were increases in the proportions for which action was taken and risk was reduced (from 35% to 40%) or removed (22% to 23%). The proportion of referrals for which action was taken and the risk remained was stable across the two years.
Impact on abuse in social care settings
Safeguarding investigations had the greatest impact in removing risks to people from social care staff than from other sources. While overall, social care staff were the source of the risk in 36% of concluded cases, 44% of cases for which risk was removed involved social care staff. By contrast, 50% of all concluded referrals concerned risk from other people known to the individual, however this applied to 41% of those cases where risk was removed.
Also, a disproportionate percentage of cases where risk remained (64%) involved abuse or neglect from a person known to the individual who was not a social care worker.
Referral numbers stable
The number of individuals for whom safeguarding referrals were made was broadly similar across the two years (103,900 in 2014-15 and 104,050 in 2013-14).
Previous years’ data (up to 2012-13) had shown year-on-year increases in referrals though the way statistics were collected changed in 2013-14, meaning no comparison can be made with data prior to that year.
The statistical collection councils must complete will change again for 2015-16 to reflect the reforms brought in to safeguarding by the Care Act. Instead of counting individuals involved in safeguarding referrals, councils will be required to supply the number of individuals involved in safeguarding enquiries under section 42 of the act.
Question marks raised
The findings about the impact of investigations were welcomed by Gary FitzGerald, chief executive of Action on Elder Abuse, but he said the statistics raised a number of issues. He made the following points:
“The HSCIC defines a referral as a concern that resulted in an investigation. But this does not tell us how many concerns did not reach that threshold, or how consistent the criteria are across local authorities? They acknowledge that ‘referral’ has a different meaning between local authorities so this makes it prudent to be cautious with the data.
“The majority of victims are already known to the local authority. This is important to note because it suggests that adult safeguarding is not reaching the majority of victims. Action on Elder Abuse has estimated at least 90% of elder abuse victims do not reach protective services.
“The highest category is neglect, followed by physical abuse. Why are we seeing so much neglect? And form where? What’s the link between this and the reduction in domiciliary care provision.
“43% of abuse was in own home; 39% care home; 6% hospital. I don’t believe this hospital figure. How much abuse and neglect is being diverted through NHS serious incident routes and so is hidden?
“30,000 cases did not know/not record capacity of victim? This is a critical issue and should be investigated. It suggests a failure to implement the MCA.
“What was the action taken to that justified saying that a case was concluded? How many protection plans? How many prosecutions?”
About the statistics
The HSCIC provided the following information about the data referred to in this report:
- A referral is categorised as concluded when the investigation is complete and the conclusions and actions have been decided.
- Concluded referrals include those started in the previous reporting year; for example, cases begun in 2013-14 that concluded in 2014-15.
- Prior to 2013-14, the number of referrals reported counted multiple referrals for the same person. From 2013-14, this changed so that the number of individuals for whom referrals were made was counted instead.