Establishment of a new Adult Safeguarding Authority recommended to Oireachtas members
Politicians have been called on to progress safeguarding legislation and the establishment of a new Adult Safeguarding Authority – to prevent and reduce abuse, neglect and coercive control.
The call was made at a presentation today in Leinster House of a new report, Identifying RISKS – Sharing RESPONSIBILITIES: The Case for a Comprehensive Approach to Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults, which includes the most detailed range of recommendations on safeguarding to date in Ireland.
The discussion document also recommends that public bodies hold a Statutory responsibility to prevent all forms of adult abuse, and that sharing relevant data between agencies where known risks arise be mandatory.
The paper was commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland and led by Dr. Michael Browne. The measures it recommends include:
- Establishment of an independent cross-sectoral Safeguarding Authority – to promote, monitor, gather data, investigate, enforce, educate and train
- New Safeguarding Legislation – which places an obligation on State bodies and organisations to take steps to prevent and reduce abuse
- Removal of data sharing barriers – onus placed on agencies to share relevant information when risk is identified
- Greater professional and public awareness – on supporting decision-making, empowering people with reduced capacity, using independent advocacy, identifying risk and when and how to report concerns.
Addressing TDs and Senators in the Leinster House today Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke said the issues raised and recommendations made to politicians was timely after World Elder Abuse Awareness Day took place yesterday.
“The discussion paper makes clear that there is a very significant lack of scope and integration in Ireland’s current safeguarding response.
“Our current measures are too narrowly focused on health and social care and lie mainly among a small number of organisations who have limits to their powers (the HSE Safeguarding Service, HIQA, the Mental Health Commission and An Garda).
“A major change of culture is needed towards a broader approach that is underpinned by legislation, policies and structures which hold individuals and organisations accountable for crimes of abuse, or also for not taking identified steps to prevent abuse.”
A central recommendation in Identifying RISKS – Sharing RESPONSIBILITIES is the establishment of an independent National Adult Safeguarding Authority with overarching responsibility for:
- Promotion of standards
- Overall reporting and data collection
- Investigation of abuse allegations
- Enforcement of safeguarding laws
- Provision of independent advocacy
- Education and training
- Public and professional awareness.
The document recommends that the Safeguarding Authority sit under the Department of Justice, together with involvement of the Departments of Health; Social Protection; Housing; Finance and Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Affairs.
Ms Rickard-Clarke said safeguarding needs to be more integrated across financial, housing, homelessness and justice services and policies – with safeguarding responsibilities placed on all relevant public bodies, and on private organisations.
“There needs to be new legislation placing a Statutory obligation on State bodies to do more than respond to crises. They also need to have accountability to take steps which prevent adult abuse and uphold people’s rights.
“A critical issue highlighted in the paper is the need for significant changes in relation to information sharing between individuals and agencies, whereby organisations should be accountable to share relevant data when there are safeguarding concerns.”
11,640 cases of alleged abuse were reported to the HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teams in 2021 an increase of 10% on 2020, although the actual figure including what is not reported, or reported to other authorities, is accepted to be much higher.
The scale level of under-reporting is indicated by RED C research commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland in 2020 which found that 12% of all adults reported having experienced adult abuse in the previous six months, and one third of adults reported ever having experienced abuse. International research suggests that up to 10% of adults may experience financial abuse, which is understood to be particularly prone to underreporting.
Ms Rickard-Clarke acknowledged that over the last 20 years, attempts have been made to combat adult abuse, including the introduction of the HSE Safeguarding Service, regulation of some health and social care services, more robust mental health legislation, initiatives in the banking sector – and particularly the soon to be commenced Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015.
In conclusion she said there is overwhelming public support for Government action and progress on these issues: “A Safeguarding Ireland commissioned survey in 2020, carried out by RED C, found that 91% of people then favoured stronger safeguarding laws. And 85% supported the setting up of a national body that is dedicated to safeguarding and comprehensively addressing abuse.”
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.
Information on Safeguarding
Safeguarding means putting measures in place to uphold rights by supporting health and well-being and reducing the risk of harm. It involves families, services and professionals working together to prevent adult abuse, neglect or coercive control. It also involves neighbourhoods and local communities. Types of abuse include emotional and psychological, physical, financial, sexual, organisational, online or discrimination.
Safeguarding Ireland is an independent organisation, registered with both the Companies Registration Office and the Charities Regulatory Authority. Its main objective is to promote safeguarding of adults who may be vulnerable, protect them from all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and develop a national plan for promoting their welfare. This is achieved by promoting inter-sectoral collaboration, developing public and professional awareness and education, and undertaking research to inform policy, practice and legislation.