Elderly abuse cases double

elderly woman at home
elderly woman at home

REPORTED abuse of elderly and disabled people in Sheffield has more than doubled over the last two years, according to statistics released by officials.

Most cases involved alleged financial scams in victims’ own homes - and the most common perpetrators were family members, friends or care workers.

Alerts to social services about abuse of elderly people and those with disabilities, learning difficulties and mental health problems have increased from 741 in 2008/9 to 1,179 in 2009/10 and 1,586 in 2010/11.

Of those alerts, 343 cases were referred for investigation in 2009/10, increasing to 428 in 2010/11. No figure was given for 2008/9.

During the last year, 254 of the cases referred for investigation - 61 per cent - involve alleged abuse of elderly people, while 63 involved people with mental health problems, 62 people with learning difficulties and 49 involving disabled people.

A breakdown of abuse alerts reported to Sheffield Council in 2010/11 reveal 206 financial cases, 140 of neglect, 140 of physical abuse, 110 of psychological abuse, 28 of sexual abuse and 26 of institutional abuse.

Alerts for financial abuse had risen from 114 cases in 2009/10.

The report said: “In the light of the current financial difficulties we were expecting a rise in the number of financial abuse cases, which has materialised.

“We are expecting this to rise again in the next year as measures put in place to protect people’s finances are often abused.”

Michelle Marshall, manager at older people’s charity Age UK Sheffield, said: “The total of abuse could be much higher because a lot of people do not want to complain because they feel there is a stigma attached to being a victim but it is vital people come forward.

“I think there has been an increase in incidents of abuse but I think the rise is also due to more people reporting incidents.”

Jacqueline Milner, from Stannington, a member of Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group, said she believes the increase in alerts is partly down to people having more confidence to complain.

She said: “It’s wonderful that people are not frightened to report abuse but there must be many more people who are suffering but do not know how to complain.

“It must be awfully hard to report abuse by a family member.

“A lot of the problems with care workers is down to time. They have unrealistic workloads and many are paid minimum wage.”

Officials said the majority of allegations made in 2010/11 involved abuse in the complainant’s own home - 184, or 42 per cent, of the cases referred for investigation in 2010/11. A total of 114 cases, or 26 per cent, were reported at care homes.

Types of perpetrators were also listed - and the biggest group was social care staff, accounting for 87 cases, or 20 per cent of those investigated.

Family members came next, in 74 cases - 17 per cent. Forty-seven cases - 11 per cent - involved a friend.

But in 55 cases - 13 per cent - the abuse was said to be self inflicted.

Sheffield Council said it has held 85 case conferences in the past year to discuss how to deal with the alleged abuse - leading to ‘risk management’ monitoring of 21 cases.

The report reveals the council and other public bodies including the NHS and police are ‘rewriting procedures’ to make improvements to monitoring of vulnerable people and Sheffield Council said it has introduced a ‘more robust’ system for responding serious incidents.

But it warns that proposals to transfer supervisory duties from the NHS to the council next year do not have sufficient funding, with an ‘estimated shortfall’ of £35,000 per annum.