Huge rise in abuse alerts

Solar Centre at St Catherine's hospital in Doncaster'' /Chris Fairweather
Solar Centre at St Catherine's hospital in Doncaster'' /Chris Fairweather

Increased public awareness has led to a rise in the number of safeguarding alerts about vulnerable adults in Doncaster – by almost a third in a year.

A report submitted to Doncaster councillors also shows the increase in concerns registered by the local authority has increased almost four-fold over a period of four years – from 225 in 2009 to 809 last year.

Greater public awareness of safeguarding, such as the abuse scandal at the Solar Centre in Balby, Doncaster, has brought about the increase, say experts.

Two members of the Solar Centre staff – Susan Murphy and James Hinds – were jailed for two years and nine months in 2013 after being found guilty of 25 counts of ill-treating patients.

The case was brought to light in 2010 after a confidential NHS report, which showed a catalogue of abuse at the centre, was leaked.

Maltreatment had gone on for two years before allegations were made in 2007, and took six years to come to court after investigations were initially dropped by prosecutors.

Doncaster Safeguarding Adult Partnership Board’s annual report shows the number of alerts continues to increase year on year, and has risen from 615 in 2012/13 to 809 in 2013/14 – an increase of over 31 per cent.

In contrast, the number of referrals – the indicator of more serious problems – has fallen from 584 last year to 427, a decrease of 27 per cent, for the year to March 2014.

The majority of alerts and referrals are among vulnerable adults aged 18 to 64 said to have a learning disability.

One theory is they are people who are more vulnerable in situations where they may be befriending strangers or misinterpreting social situations, which exposes them to abuse or potential abuse.

The report says Doncaster also has a number of large care providers which offer placements to people with learning disabilities, which has a significant impact on the number of alerts and referrals received.

Nearly 56 per cent of referrals are among vulnerable adults aged 65 and over, often associated with those cited as having physical disability, frailty or sensory impairment, predominantly linked to the large proportion of service users living in care settings.

Doncaster partnership agencies and the Care Quality Commission hold Joint Safeguarding Risk and Quality meetings on a monthly basis to share intelligence, monitor themes and trends, and manage risk to proactively prevent abuse and respond to safeguarding concerns.

In Doncaster, a Safeguarding Adults alert is where a safeguarding concern is received that does not meet the threshold for a Safeguarding Adults investigation, but may require signposting to a different service or a different response is required other than Safeguarding investigation.

It is only when the threshold is met that an alert will translate into referral for investigation.

Dave Hamilton, Doncaster’s director of Adults, Health and Wellbeing, said: “We actively encourage any reports relating to adult safeguarding.

“An unprecedented level of public awareness about this issue nationally has also helped to create a climate where people in Doncaster feel empowered to come forward and raise concerns with us.”