December 11, 2019:

Safeguarding Ireland has urged the enactment of new Adult Safeguarding legislation, to better protect vulnerable adults and reduce abuse.

Speaking at high-level workshop today to launch and discuss a new report Falling Through the Cracks: The Case for Change, Key Developments and Next Steps for Adult Safeguarding in Ireland, commissioned by Senator Colette Kelleher, Safeguarding Ireland stressed that citizens would only benefit when new policies are underpinned by legislation.

The meeting was opened by the Minister for Health Simon Harris and attended by key decision makers from the Department of Health, HSE, Law Reform Commission, Data Protection Commissioner, national representative bodies and academics.

Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke welcomed the many current and recent developments taking place in adult safeguarding including:

  • Publication of National Standards for Adult Safeguardingjointly developed by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the Mental Health Commission (MHC)
  • Publication of Guidance on a Human Rights-based Approach in Health and Social Care Services by HIQA with support from Safeguarding Ireland
  • A national adult safeguarding policy for the health sector is under development by the Department of Health
  • The HSE’s national operational adult safeguarding policy is being revised.

“Safeguarding Ireland welcomes all of this progress, and the leadership being shown at today’s event and new report from Senator Kelleher. However, in order to actually improve outcomes for vulnerable adults we need up-to-date and fit-for-purpose laws which are implemented and enforced.”

Ms. Patricia Rickard-Clarke said the Adult Safeguarding Bill, which has been driven by Senator Colette Kelleher, has been in development since 2017 – and needs a timeline for its implementation.

“The Adult Safeguarding Bill needs to be finalised, enacted, implemented and enforced. It should be rolled out together with a Regulatory Framework giving HIQA, the Central Bank and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection powers to ensure that Safeguarding legislation is adhered to.”

Senator Colette Kelleher also highlighted the need for enactment. “Whilst many thousands of people in Ireland experience and / or are at risk of harm and abuse, the current law, policy and protections are inadequate to safeguard the wellbeing of adults in certain situations.

“Put simply people are ‘falling though the cracks’ and coming to harm or being abused because of gaps in our current systems. Frontline Social Workers and others who come into contact with people in these situations just don’t have the ways, means or powers to support and safeguard them.”

The event included the launch of a new report on safeguarding written by UCD School of Social Work Associate Professor Dr Sarah Donnelly and Independent Health Policy Analyst, Dr Marita O Brien.

The report includes nine case studies gathered from real life safeguarding situations reported from the frontline. The case studies include people with intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries, dementia, and older people and identifies the gaps in support, safeguards and protection which they are falling through. It also includes recommendations and specific actions to improve adult safeguarding law, policy and practice – and these were discussed in detail at the meeting. The report can be viewed here.

Ms. Rickard-Clarke also called for the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act which was enacted in 2015 to be implemented – in full – in 2020. It contains key safeguarding provisions and arrangements to be put in place to respect an individual’s human rights.

The 2018 Annual Report of the HSE National Safeguarding Office reported 11,780 safeguarding concerns, the highest annual rate reported by the Office to date, and a 14% increase from 2017.

A report recent commissioned by the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) together with Safeguarding Ireland in October found that 20% of adults have experienced financial abuse.

More information at

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.

Safeguarding Ireland 

Safeguarding Ireland promotes safeguarding of vulnerable adults to protect them from all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and to develop a national plan for promoting their welfare.