Number of adults subject to a section 42 safeguarding enquiry rose 6% last year

Almost 1,000 safeguarding concerns nationally raised per day, figures show

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The number of adults subject to a section 42 safeguarding enquiry under the Care Act increased by 6% in 2016-17, official figures show.

There were 109,145 adults subject to an enquiry in 2016-17, compared with 102,970 the previous year. The majority, 60%, were female and 63% were aged 65 and over.

The findings were published in NHS Digital’s annual safeguarding adults report, which is based on data collected from local authorities with responsibility for adults’ social services.

A safeguarding concern is where a local authority is notified about a risk of abuse. Some of these concerns will lead to a section 42 enquiry, where the adult meets criteria under the Care Act 2014, or an ‘other enquiry’, where the adult does not meet the criteria.

Concerns and enquiries

In 2016-17, there were 364,605 safeguarding concerns raised, which equates to almost 1,000 per day nationally, the report found.*

Councils in the South East of England saw the highest number of concerns and enquiries, with 53,990 safeguarding concerns raised, and 24,615 enquiries carried out.

In comparison, concerns were lowest in the North East of England, with 29,890 raised. However, this area had the highest number of concerns actioned by social work teams, with 64% converting into either a section 42 or other safeguarding enquiry.

Local authorities also reported a combined total of 151,160 adult safeguarding enquiries as starting the during the year, of which 133,265 (88%) were section 42 enquiries.

Nationally, there were 61 of the 152 local authorities (40%) where all enquiries were categorised as a section 42. The highest proportion was seen in the East of England, where eight of the 11 councils reported 100% of their enquiries as section 42s.

The figures on concerns and enquiries for 2016-17 were not comparable with the previous year as reporting this data was only made mandatory for councils last year.

Types of risk

The figures broke down the types of risk for section 42 enquiries that concluded during the year. Councils recorded 135,680 instances of risk in 2016-17, up 9% from 124,940 in 2015-16.

All risk types saw an increase during 2016-17 in terms of raw numbers, the report said. Neglect and acts of omission accounted for the majority at 35%.

In 48% of cases the source of the risk was known to the person, down 2% from the previous year. The proportion of risks attributed to service providers was 36%.

Councils also submitted 123,720 records on the location of the risk of abuse. In 2016-17, the home of the adult at risk accounted for 44% of locations, while care homes – both nursing and residential – accounted for 36% between them.

Safeguarding adults reviews

The report also looked at the number of safeguarding adults reviews (SARs) that were held in 2016-17. A review must be arranged when an adult dies as a result of abuse or neglect, whether known or suspected, and in cases where the adult has not died, but the safeguarding board knows or suspects that they experienced serious abuse or neglect.

There was an increase in the number of SARs held (22%), the number of individuals at risk who died (58%) and the number of individuals who suffered serious harm (20%).

The highest proportion of SARs held in 2016-17 (36%) was in London.

The percentage of safeguarding concerns leading to enquiries by region


Safeguarding Concerns


Total Enquiries


Conversion Rate

N. East




N. West




Yorkshire & Humber




E. Midlands




W. Midlands




E. England








S. East




S. West




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