Social workers reducing risks for more adults subject to abuse or neglect

Risk is being reduced and removed in a greater proportion of cases despite increase in number of investigations, show official figures

Photo credit: Burger/Phanie/Rex Features

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.

The proportion of cases where risk was reduced or removed increased in 2014-15 (Source: HSCIC)

The proportion of cases where risk was reduced or removed increased in 2014-15 (Source: HSCIC)

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.

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3 Responses to Social workers reducing risks for more adults subject to abuse or neglect

  1. Keith Lewin October 29, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    Lies, damn lies and statistics. The local authorities are able to manipulate the data provided to HSCIC, not necessarily wilfully, but simply because of differing views of ‘thresholds’. Notwithstanding, it seems to me from my professional work that the figure attributed to abuse/neglect taking place in hospital settings is completely unbelievable.

    Many local authorities have, it seems to me, little appetite to hold the feet of local NHS bodies to the fire of accountability. In fact, I have come across instances where an NHS body has asserted to the local safeguarding team that it is not accountable in that forum and that it would not be participating in the process. Scandalous. That was only in 2012; I hope that attitude has changed. Assuming that it has, I am still very wary of the statistic which suggests just 6% of abuse occurs in hospitals.

  2. Stephen James October 29, 2015 at 8:11 am #

    I also broadly welcome the release of these statistics, but would urge great caution in placing any degree of faith in them as they mask and/or misrepresent the reality of adult safeguarding for most practitioners in the field. The fact that the HSCIC have effectively ‘moved the goal posts’ and changed many of the data collection questions, means that meaningful comparisons from previous collections cannot be made. If you were cynical about this you might think that this is a deliberate ploy to avoid pre and post Care Act comparisons to be made. On that point, it also needs to be taken into account that these figures do not fully represent the changes made in The Care Act 2014 and next years HSCIC data collection report will be very interesting to analyse, where it is possible. I would suggest that sadly, these data collections are designed to fit the political agendas of the day, rather than where they should be targeted on understanding the realities of adult abuse and developing services and responses to effectively prevent and address.

  3. Gerald October 29, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    As long as Safeguarding investigations are carried out by the Public Sector there will always be a biased approach, this was plainly obvious in the case of the Mid Staffs Hospital, where the whistleblowers and relatives were ALL ignored for years and years where was the LAs , the Police, Age concern etc etc. it seems there a disparity of actions when it comes to Safeguarding between the Public and Private Sectors