Thousands of safeguarding concerns raised about vulnerable adults in Bedford

Age UK said the figures coincided with a period of long-term underfunding from the Government

Thousands of safeguarding concerns were made about vulnerable adults in Bedford last year, new figures show.

Age UK said the figures, which showed the number of concerns raised across England doubling in the last four years, coincided with a period of long-term underfunding from the Government.

NHS Digital figures show 3,750 concerns of abuse were made about adults with care and support needs in Bedford in the year to March – 6 per cent more than the 3,535 in 2018-19.

Age UK said the figures coincided with a period of long-term underfunding from the Government

The number of abuse concerns rose to 475,560 across England last year, more than double the number there were in 2015-16.

Age UK said this increase was significant, but said it was hard to judge how much of this was due to greater awareness, instead of an increase in abuse.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams added: "However, it is important to note that the biggest single category of these concerns was that of 'neglect', mostly applying to people living in their own homes.

"We know that both social care and community health services, like district nurses, were under enormous pressure at this time due to long term underfunding, weakening the safety net that protects older people living at home, many of them alone.

"These worrying figures may reflect the struggle of our vital local health and care services to meet the needs of growing numbers of sick older people living at home, with static or decreasing government resources.

"And sadly, we can only guess at how bad the same figures may turn out to be next year, once the impact of the pandemic is factored in."

If councils believe an adult with care and support needs is experiencing or is at risk of abuse or neglect, they must carry out a Section 42 enquiry, to determine whether they need to take action.

Bedford Borough Council completed 165 such enquiries last year, with (24 per cent) involving neglect or acts of omission – the most commonly cited issues.

These were followed by physical abuse (15 per cent) and financial or material abuse (also 15 per cent).

Of the enquiries concluded last year, safeguarding incidents were found to have occurred most often in adults' own homes, on 50 occasions.

There were also 40 in care homes and 30 in uncategorised locations.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “The council has a duty to carry out a section 42 enquiry when they have been advised of possible abuse and or neglect of a Vulnerable Adult. Within this work the safeguarding team identify any trends or patterns within the safeguarding alerts.

"This work places us in a strong position to work with health and social care organisations, in partnership or as part of an investigation, to address any issues or concerns. This work has continued to be monitored closely through the period of the pandemic.”