10% increase in safeguarding concerns made to HSE

Posted: 3rd July 2022

There was a 10% increase in concerns made to HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teams last year compared to 2020.

11,640 safeguarding concerns were reported in 2021 according to its latest annual report.

67% of notifications related to adults under 65 years of age, and 33% for those aged over 65.

The total number of notifications for persons aged over 65 was 3,671 and of these, 1,320 were over 80 years.

The report noted that while the overall number of concerns reported for those over 65 years increased on previous years, “it is still significantly below what would be expected for both community and residential settings”.

For adults aged 65-79 years, the most significant category of alleged abuse was psychological abuse (42%), physical (25%) and financial abuse (16%).

For adults over 80 years, the most significant category of alleged abuse was psychological (36%), financial (21%), and physical (17%).

Almost half of those allegedly raising concern for those over 65 were “immediate family members”.


Two out of three cases in those under 65 years, were identified as “another service user”.

In seven out of ten cases, the outcome agreed with the Safeguarding and Protection Team was “reasonable grounds for concern”.

Safeguarding Ireland has called for greater awareness of adult abuse among older people – including greater understanding of the link between psychological and financial abuse.

Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke said an attitude prevails among some people that it is “OK to step in” and gradually assume authority over an older or frail person’s finances.

“However, this is not true and needs to be called out. Families, loved ones and carers role is to respect older people to retain control of their own finances, and to facilitate support for independent decision-making if needed.”, she said.

Ms Rickard-Clarke repeated calls for the establishment of an independent National Safeguarding Authority with responsibility for all aspects of safeguarding including reporting and she welcomed the HSE’s recognition of this in the report.

In 2020, there was a 9% decline in safeguarding concerns notified to HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teams compared to 2019.

The drop in notifications coincided with the pandemic and associated restrictions which resulted in concern raised by the Irish Association of Social Workers.

ALONE, the charity that supports older people to age at home, echoed calls by Safeguarding Ireland for the introduction of national adult safeguarding legislation.

In a statement, the organisation said that despite the increase in elder abuse, national adult safeguarding legislation had not been introduced.

On the eve of World Elder Abuse Day, which takes place tomorrow, CEO Seán Moynihan described elder abuse as “an insidious form of abuse that often goes quietly unseen and it is not talked about enough in today’s society”.

ALONE has called for the adult safeguarding legislation which has been stalled in the Seanad for several years to be put in place.

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