There was a 13% increase year-on-year in adult safeguarding concerns on Teesside, the Local Democracy Reporting Service can reveal.
Reported safeguarding concerns involving abuse and/or neglect rose from 5,023 in 2019/20 to 5,694 in 2020/21 – an average of 110 a week – although an individual can be subject to multiple concerns being raised on their behalf.
Care home residents accounted for most concerns reported – 2,045 – the next biggest category being people looked after by the NHS and other types of social care.
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A report by the Teeswide Adult Safeguarding Board (TSAB) said nearly half of concerns (49%) converted into so-called section 42 enquiries, which involves a local authority formally making enquiries if it believed an adult is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse and/or neglect.
During the course of 2020/21 82% of completed section 42 enquiries identified a risk of abuse with subsequent action being taken.
The report said frontline safeguarding teams were facing “increasing pressure”.
Adult abuse is categorised into a number of areas, ranging from neglect, physical, financial and material, domestic, psychological, sexual and modern slavery.
TSAB, based in Billingham, has six statutory partners – Cleveland Police, Hartlepool Council, Middlesbrough Council, Redcar and Cleveland Council, Stockton Council and the Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group – along with a number of non-statutory partners.
It holds organisations to account for their safeguarding activity and has established a Teesside-wide framework to strengthen local arrangements, also sharing learning across agencies and promoting more consistent approaches to safeguarding.
The board’s independent chairman Darren Best, who was previously deputy chief constable of Northumbria Police and head of crime at Cleveland Police during a 30-year career in the police service, said more adult safeguarding concerns could mean a problem getting worse, or an increased awareness of potential abuse meaning more people were raising concerns where they might not have done previously.
He said: “I tend to think it is more of the latter, but that is not to say I am resting on my laurels.”
Mr Best, who recently spoke to scrutiny committee members at Redcar and Cleveland Council, where he presented the report, said covid-19 had added “another complexity” to adult safeguarding.
He also described domestic abuse as a huge issue on Teesside and said it needed to be continued to be tackled by the authorities.
Mr Best said staffing, training and resources were an emerging challenge for those attempting to keep people safe from harm.
He said: “It’s the issue of being unable to recruit and hold onto people and challenges around training people in the context of covid and having the relevant finances to do it.
“There is no black and white in safeguarding, staff are constantly operating within shades of grey and sometimes trying to find the least worst option to help somebody, rather than the perfect option.”
The report said the “need for safeguarding has not stopped during these unprecedented times”.
It said TSAB was continuing to work closely with both statutory and wider partner organisations to gain the reassurance that safeguarding issues were addressed effectively and appropriately.News