LEEDS City Council has received its highest ever number of calls and alerts about suspected abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults.
Newly published figures show where were 923 separate investigations launched in the past 12 months - with more than half of those concluding that the complaints were justified.
This was on the back of 3,753 “safeguarding alerts” during 2013/14, compared to 3,438 in the 12 months before. This was a rise of nine per cent, or 315 incidents.
Initial alerts may be resolved quickly, but can become full investigations if enough evidence is gathered to warrant a deeper probe.
The figures are laid out in the latest annual report from the Leeds Safeguarding Adults Board.
The report states, perhaps most disturbingly, that in more than half of completed investigations, the allegations were “either substantiated or partly substantiated, on the balance of probabilities”.
However it also points out that in 95 per cent of cases where investigations were done, the risk of abuse or neglect was completely removed.
Despite the stark numbers, adult care and social services bosses say the higher figures are not worrying, because they reflect the city’s success in raising awareness and getting more people to report concerns.
The council is currently running a big publicity drive, launched in the summer under the tagline ‘doing nothing is not an option’, to increase reporting of suspected neglect or abuse.
Councillor Adam Ogilvie, the council’s cabinet spokesman on adult social care, told the YEP: “We have had more investigations because of the increased awareness around adult safeguarding.
“More people are ringing us and contacting the safeguarding unit to alert us to issues of concern.
“Obviously every case is taken completely seriously and investigated.”
He said the council launched the campaign because of fears that many victims could be slipping through the net.
He added the aim is “to create a door that is easy for people to get through” because “no one in our city should tolerate abuse or neglect.”
Coun Ogilvie believes recent high profile national cases involving abuse or neglect or vulnerable adults have helped highlight the issue and keep it in people’s minds, leading to a higher reporting rate.
He stressed the figures reflect increased awareness but do not reflect an increase in incidents.
Incidents that can be logged as ‘safeguarding risks’ or alerts include issues with people in care homes, where a concern may have been raised that they are not being cared for properly.
However 63 per cent of the cases reported in Leeds last year referred to physically or learning disabled adults.
A meeting of Leeds City Council’s cabinet was told this week that although there had been a nine per cent rise in overall concerns raised, where investigations were undertaken, the ‘risk’ was removed 95 per cent of the time and the incident resolved.
The meeting was told the city is “exceptional” and “way ahead” of national work in terms of the way vulnerable individuals are protected.
The Leeds Adult Safeguarding Board is a voluntary body set up by the council, and has just produced its seventh annual report . However it will become a statutory body next year when the Care Act comes into force
Launching the awareness campaign this summer, Dr Paul Kingston, chair of the Leeds Safeguarding Adults Board said: “It is vitally important we get the message out that we all have a responsibility to safeguard adults at risk of abuse or neglect throughout our city.
“Noticing and acting on concerns, even if it is something very small, could really help someone who is at risk from such abuse, and we would urge everyone to take these matters seriously.
“Dealing with allegations or concerns about abuse can be very difficult and distressing for everyone involved. Deciding what the right thing to do is can be stressful, particularly if the person you are concerned about is reluctant to accept support.”
Anyone who suspects any kind of adult abuse or feels they are a victim themselves should contact 0113 222 4401 (Textphone for deaf and hard of hearing people: 0113 222 4410) during office hours. If it is outside office hours (at night, during weekends or bank holidays) contact the emergency duty team on 0113 240 9536.