The abuse of vulnerable adults remains a "disturbing reality" in Irish society, according to the HSE National Safeguarding Office (NSO).
It has published its 2018 Annual Report, which revealed that last year, it received 11,780 safeguarding concerns in relation to vulnerable adults, a 14% increase on 2017's figure.
In total, there have been over 30,000 safeguarding concerns reported to the NSO over the last three years.
The 2018 report noted that for people aged 18-64, the most significant types of alleged abuse were physical (50%), followed by psychological (31%).
For those over the age of 65, the most significant types of alleged abuse were psychological (33%), followed by physical (26%) and financial (21%).
Alleged cases of financial abuse and neglect tend to increase with age, with the highest level of reporting relating to those over the age of 80.
Meanwhile, the report also noted that the total number of alleged institutional abuse concerns has increased from 1% to 5%.
"The NSO Report 2018 indicates once again an increase in safeguarding concerns notified to the HSE. In the past three years, this service has provided an intervention and oversight role in over 30,000 safeguarding concerns.
"Interagency collaboration and associated public awareness are central in the protection of adults at risk of abuse in Irish society. The HSE is committed to implementing an updated Adult Safeguarding Policy to ensure a culture of adult safeguarding is embedded in all HSE and HSE-funded services," commented Tim Hanly of the NSO.
Responding to the report, Safeguarding Ireland has called for HSE safeguarding teams to be given more legal powers.
Safeguarding Ireland is a coalition of national organisations in the health, social and financial sectors, that work together to protect vulnerable adults. It called for increased legal powers for safeguarding teams, including the authority to make applications to court for Protection Orders on behalf of vulnerable adults.
"Currently the Child and Family Agency Tusla, whose main remit is child safeguarding, is the only State agency which can directly make applications to the court for Protection Orders on behalf of vulnerable people who are at risk.
"However, it is the HSE safeguarding teams who are most at the frontline in identifying and dealing with abuse cases of vulnerable adults. It is clear that they need greater powers to respond to risk," commented the organisation's chairperson, Patricia Rickard Clarke.
The 2018 Annual Report of the National Safeguarding Office can be viewed here.
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