Fresh calls for legislation to safeguard vulnerable adults

8,000 cases of alleged abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults were reported to the HSE in 2016

There are fresh calls for the introduction of safeguarding legislation to protect vulnerable adults.

It comes as a new report shows that almost 8,000 cases of alleged abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults were reported to the HSE in 2016.

The figures have been released to coincide with a new campaign by the National Safeguarding to increase public understanding of what constitutes abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults.

Patricia Rickard-Clarke, chairperson of the National Safeguarding Committee, spoke to the Pat Kenny Show about the report.

She explained: "The NSC is a group of organisations - public service, legal & financial services, health & social care, voluntary bodies.

"We've come together, we've produced a strategy plan - and the main object in mind is to ensure that adults who are vulnerable are safeguarded."

Patricia says that abuse of adults can take many forms, including psychological and physical abuse. 

"In many cases, a lot of the abuse of older people takes place within the community, within families," she noted.

"For example, people put in place arrangements to collect their pension. If a family member or carer gets in and takes money without the consent of the money, that is abuse."

She explained that while efforts are underway to introduce safeguarding legislation - in the form of a bill introduced in the Seanad, and set to move to the committee phase - there is a real need for such rules to be enacted.

Patricia observed: "We spent a long time achieving safeguarding legislation in respect of children. We do not have any safeguarding legislation [for adults]. The HSE safeguarding office - and it has offices around the country - is not on a statutory basis either.

"We are refusing to recognise that they have rights, and they should be treated equally with all others. If they are vulnerable, we have an absolute duty and obligation to safeguard them."

The National Safeguarding Committee is leading a nationwide campaign to increase public understanding of what constitutes abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults – and the need for greater awareness, policy and legal frameworks to safeguard vulnerable adults.

More information on the campaign, safeguarding vulnerable adults and contact points can be found at www.safeguardingcommittee.ie