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County joins forces to safeguard the vulnerable

Protecting the most vulnerable adults in our community is everyone’s business – that was the message behind a groundbreaking event which was organised by Warwickshire County Council.

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Conference was held on Tuesday 17 March following rising concerns about forms of abuse including neglect, elder abuse and hate crime which often remain hidden because the victims, due to illness or disability, may be unable to protect themselves.

Professionals from social care, the police and health gathered at the Techno Centre in Coventry to hear from experts from Action on Elder Abuse, Warwickshire Police, the Supreme Court and the Independent Safeguarding Authority, a new national body working across the UK to prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults.

National research has found that abuse of vulnerable adults is a widespread problem, with up to 4 per cent of all people over 65 experiencing mistreatment in their lives.

This equates to about 227,000 people over the age of 65 experiencing abuse and neglect per year in the UK. Add to this vulnerable adults under 65 - for example people with a learning disability, physical disability or mental health need - and the size of the problem is significant.

Warwickshire is one of a growing number of local authorities to recognise the need for a dedicated resource to protect vulnerable adults, and appointed five, full-time Safeguarding Practitioners in 2008 to coordinate abuse investigation and victim support.

As well as working directly with vulnerable individuals in each district and borough of the county, the team also raises awareness of adult abuse among the general public, and health and social care professionals.  Since the appointment of the safeguarding practitioners in April last year, twice as many people are recognising abuse and coming forward to seek help and support.

Dr Graeme Betts, Strategic Director of Adult, Health and Community Services at Warwickshire County Council and Chair of the Warwickshire Safeguarding Adults Board, said: “For too long, the abuse of vulnerable members of our communities has been hidden, and people have lived in fear as a result. We want to send out a clear message that protecting the most vulnerable people in our society from abuse is everybody’s business.

“We already have a dedicated team and procedures for professionals to follow in Warwickshire, but we are constantly seeking to improve our effectiveness. By bringing together professionals from social care, the police, health and housing we want to share good practice and innovation in safeguarding”

Bill Holland, Assistant Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police, said: "The purpose of the police is to protect people from harm. Vulnerable adults are particularly at risk of harm, whether through physical abuse, having their property stolen or damaged, or being subjected to intimidation.

"The police must therefore take special efforts to prevent vulnerable adults becoming victims, and be effective in stopping this where it is happening already."

The conference also looked at legislation including a review of ‘No Secrets’, the Government’s 2000 guidance on preventing the abuse of adults. Warwickshire is one of many organisations calling for stronger legal powers to keep vulnerable adults safe.

Unlike Child Protection, there is no primary legislation in England & Wales designed to protect Vulnerable Adults. Building on the existing policy guidance that is available, agencies within Warwickshire have formed the Warwickshire Safeguarding Adults Partnership with the central aim of working together to prevent abuse, and to respond effectively when a vulnerable adult is at risk of abuse.

If anyone is concerned that a Vulnerable Adult is at risk of abuse or neglect, contact Warwickshire County Council Adult Social Care on 01926 410410 or for more information log on to http://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/safeguardingadults