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The level of need in the population

Adults :: Safeguarding :: The level of need in the population

Over the last three years the number of reported and subsequently investigated referrals of alleged abuse in Medway has increased. In 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 there were 245, 277 and 324 referrals respectively. There has been a 17% increase in the number of referrals since 2009/10. It is believed that it is not the amount of adult abuse that has increased, but the level of reporting of incidents and concerns. This reflects the continuing efforts made to raise awareness of adult abuse. However, compared to other unitary authorities (The Health and Social Care Information Centre 2011) Medway Towns referrals are below average by approximently 30%. Within Medway, the primary client categories of the alleged victims of abuse, for the period of April 2009 to March 2011 are presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Percentage of primary client type.
Figure 1. Percentage of primary client type (2009–2011)

Within the physical disability category, 65% of the alleged victims were over the age of 65 years and 30% were over the age of 85 years. It is widely recognized that individuals with learning difficulties or complex needs, such as mental health issues or drug and alcohol dependency, are at a heightened risk because they face additional barriers in disclosing abuse and neglect. Abuse and neglect can happen to anyone regardless of race or ethnicity. Although referrals regarding non-white citizens are increasing, from 2.2% (2010/11) to 13% in the first quarter of 2011/12, it is accepted that in order to continue to protect vulnerable adults, awareness raising must continue to reach all sections of Medway's diverse communities. Women are disproportinately more likely to be the victims of abuse. Of the 601 referrals during the period April 2009 to March 2011, 406 (68%) of the alleged victims were female and 195 (32%) male. The gender proportion varies by age, as 60% of the alleged victims were female in the group 16-64 years, and this increases to 80% in the over 85 year group. Research by Hague et al on behalf of Women's Aid (2008) also drew out important links between domestic abuse and safeguarding. The research revealed that people with disablities are more vulnerable to domestic abuse and will often face additional difficulties in attempting to access support. While one in four adult women and one in 13 adult men will experience domestic violence during their lifetimes, findings from the research found that vulnerable women and men are at increased risk of abuse; 50% of disabled women have experienced domestic abuse compared with a quarter of non disabled women. Any 'vulnerable adult' can be the victim of abuse regardless of sexuality. However, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual 'vulnerable adults' are likely to face additional concerns about homophobia and gender discrimination. They may be concerned that they will not be recognised as victims or believed and taken seriously. Abusers may also be able to control their victims further through the threat of 'outing'. Currently, sexual orientation is not recorded as part of the referral process.

Figure 2. Numbers types of alleged abuse.
Figure 2. Numbers types of alleged abuse (2008–2011)

In 2010, Kent police recorded 75 reports of sexual orientation and gender hate crime compared to 56 cases in 2009. Disability hate crime reporting had also increased from 21 to 51 cases respectively from 2009 to 2010. The victim's home is the primary location of the alleged abuse however 30% of referrals are reagrding people who live in residential care settings. The majority of these allegations implicate the staff working in these settings but will also include family and visitors as the alleged perpetrators.

The primary types of alleged abuse are physical, financial and neglect. In the current economic climate, it is predicted that the incidence of financial abuse will increase.