Many don't know where to report adult abuse

Safeguarding Ireland aims to raise awareness
  • Deborah Condon

Almost one-quarter of people would not know who to report adult abuse to if they or someone they knew was a victim, a new survey has found.

Adults can be victims of many different forms of abuse, including psychological, physical or financial abuse, as well as neglect and coercion. However according to this new survey, 23% of people would not know who to report such abuse to.

The findings were released by Safeguarding Ireland, an organisation which works to promote the safeguarding of vulnerable adults. It has launched a new public awareness drive in an attempt to improve the reporting of adult abuse.

The survey found that while 92% of people would encourage or help others to report abuse that was happening to them, just 70% said they would report abuse if it was happening to themselves.

This means that almost one-third of adults would not report if they were being abused.

According to Safeguarding Ireland chairperson, Patricia Rickard-Clarke, all types of abuse need to be called out and reported. However, she acknowledged that improved clarity is needed on how and where to report concerns surrounding abuse or neglect, especially in the case of vulnerable adults.

"There are different public bodies that safeguarding concerns should be reported to depending on the issue, and this can cause confusion. If an abuse concern is urgent and someone is in immediate danger, it should be brought to the Gardai. If it is a general concern about health and welfare it should be brought to the HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teams," Ms Rickard-Clarke explained.

The HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teams can be contacted directly about older people, and people with a disability in the community, who are at risk of abuse by another person. Where individuals are in receipt of a health or social care service, they can speak to the service provider or manager about any safeguarding concerns. 

Meanwhile, concerns about financial abuse should be raised with the relevant bank's vulnerable customer service, a welfare concern should be raised with the Department of Social Protection, while a concern about an organisation or service in the health or social sector should be raised with the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

According to the recently published 2019 Annual Report of the HSE National Safeguarding Office, it dealt with 12,000 cases of abuse concerns last year. However, Ms Rickard-Clarke pointed to recent RED C research, which found that 12% of Irish adults said they had experienced abuse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while as many as one-third reported ever experiencing abuse.

"We know that the actual level of abuse is much higher than that which presents specifically to the HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teams. To get a comprehensive picture, safeguarding data would need to also be collated from the Gardaí, the banks and the Department of Social Protection.

"To achieve stronger reporting from the public, and more comprehensive data, overarching national structures for safeguarding need to be planned for. Furthermore, stronger safeguarding laws which are in development need to be delivered with urgency," she insisted.

For more information on Safeguarding Ireland, including information on how to report adult abuse, click on


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