Accusations of abuse of vulnerable adults in North Yorkshire have risen by 22 per cent in just one year, an Advertiser investigation has revealed. RUBY KITCHEN finds out what has been happening.
A huge rise in the number of abuse alerts against vulnerable and elderly adults in North Yorkshire has been branded “disturbing” by Age UK.
The latest figures, revealed by the Harrogate Advertiser, show that accusations of abuse in the county are up 22 per cent in just one year – while accusations of neglect have risen nine per cent.
The number of cases referred for full investigation has even dropped by one per cent and there is a 20 per cent rise in the number of unproven cases.
But half of all alleged abuse was said to have occured in a care home – and half was said to have been committed by social care workers.
This ‘steep’ increase, says Age UK, is “disturbing” as most of those affected were aged over 65.
“They concern some of the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom feel that they have no one to turn to for help,” said Age UK director Caroline Abrahams.
“Any abuse of older people is unacceptable and we need a zero tolerance approach to any abuse whether through neglect, financial manipulation or physical or mental cruelty.”
The Advertiser investigation, analysing provisional figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), details the rise in alerts and referrals to adult social care safeguarding teams.
“Our biggest fear is that there are still many cases that are not reported,” said Ms Abrahams, calling for stronger powers to investigate.
“We would encourage anyone who suspects that an older person is being abused to contact social services or the police straight away.”
North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) itself provides just a quarter of the care it pays for – one and a half million hours of home care coming from the independent sector.
Admitting there has been a “significant” increase in the number of safeguarding alerts, a spokesman said: “This is a result of increased awareness.
“It’s a positive response to the training that is undertaken including a specific campaign in November 2012.”
The accusations against care homes and social care workers were not substantiated, said the council, adding the rise in reports showed that people “felt more able to raise concerns”.
And the rise in the number of reported neglect cases, the spokesman said, is not because there is more abuse but is down to a “more detailed” system.
“NYCC operates a zero-tolerance approach to abuse, and encourages users to alert the council to any suggestion of possible incidents,” he said.
“This policy results in greater awareness, and inevitably leads to a proportionately higher number of recorded cases.”
Drastic cuts to social care budgets for adults and older people in North Yorkshire have seen spending slashed by £1.79m in the past year alone, the Advertiser can reveal.
This is despite a rise in the number of people relying on support, with people spending more than 6,000 extra weeks in care year on year.
And now North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has launched a consultation to slash spending by a further £2.3m.
“Very significant financial savings are required of NYCC as the Government tackles the economic deficit,” said a spokesman for the council, defending the cuts. “Nevertheless the county council is absolutely committed to the maintenance of the very best adult social care it can fund.
“We have been able to deal with increasing demand through changes to back office support and more efficient working practices, whilst maintaining quality.”
NYCC, faced with making huge savings of £92m by 2015 and a further £77m by 2019, must make drastic cuts to its social care spending of £13m by 2016.
In a report called ‘making difficult decisions’ it is now consulting on a plan to raise the threshold for social care entitlement from ‘moderate’ needs to ‘substantial’ to save £1.4m a year.
Council chiefs have stressed the move would bring it in line with 87 per cent of other authorities nationally but, if approved, it would withdraw care from 2,600 people across the county.
Asking people to pay more towards care, broadening means testing and charging more would save a further £940,000.
“The changes upon which we want to consult the public are things which in an ideal world we would prefer not to have to make,” said County Coun Clare Wood, executive member for adult social care.
“But we are obliged to live in the real world. Very significant financial savings are required as the Government tackles the economic deficit.”
County Coun Jim Clark (Con), chairman of North Yorkshire’s scrutiny of health committee, said: “The problem we have is the amount of funding that is reducing at the same time as there is increasing demand for services.
“The best way to deal with it is to integrate services.”
Where the axe has fallen on spending
l Spending on caring for older people at home is down £573,000 year on year
l Spending on day care services for older people has dropped £421,000, while user numbers have dropped 28 per cent
l The amount spent on each person’s nursing care is down £25.70 per week
l This is while the number of weeks people spent in care has risen by more than 6,000 (6,395)
l This rise is mainly older people (2,048 more weeks in care)
l The amount of money spent on residential and nursing care for older people is down £2.47m year on year
l Twenty-four per cent less older people are receiving care help at home (835 less)
l The number of older people receiving meals from the county council has dropped 61 per cent from 170 to 75.