Safeguarding is Everybody's Responsibility


The Joint Committee on Disability Matters in April 2024 launched their report on "Ensuring rights based adult safeguarding in Ireland". This report is as a result of two public meetings undertaken by the Committee; 31 March 2022 HIQA, Sage Advocacy, the Irish Association of Social Workers and Professor Brendan Kelly, professor of psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin attended. Safeguarding Ireland attended a public meeting on 21 February 2024. Several key findings and recommendations arose from the meetings.  

Traditionally society has viewed adult safeguarding as only an issue for those who are deemed "vulnerable" however at long last there is now a real discussion taking place on the alarming increase in abuse in our communities, in our families and across the community and voluntary sector. The term vulnerable has always been associated with persons who do not have the capacity to make decisions where as now we know that Adult Safeguarding should be more focused on supporting adults who are at risk and lets face us all of us are at times in the course of our life we are an "Adult at Risk". Look at those who have fled war and are now living on our streets in tents, look at our young people who are leaving care facilities at 18 years of age, facing into homelessness. Homelessness in Ireland is on the increase and so too are the numbers of Adults at Risk in our society. 

According to the report those working in the sector "can be fearful to report up the line, which sustains the lack of reporting. Many people who are the victims of abuse or lack of safeguarding are also afraid because they may be dependent on other people. It is everyone's responsibility to recognise and raise awareness about any form of abuse". 

Another area, is finanical abuse. This type of abuse is often ignored or written off as a bad debt. Older persons or those who do not have capacity to manage their money independently are relying on others to assit them to gain access to their money however we are seeing ever increasing levels of coercive control by those closest to the person to gain access and control over the persons money and property. According to the report "People with disabilities can be put under significant pressure from family to sell a house they have inherited and distribute the money among the family and may end up homeless". 

The report also highlights the fact that many of those working in the health care and community sector often minimise the seriousness of the abuse which has led to a culture of underreporting. Examples given in the report include "rough handling" is used instead of physical abuse, "inappropriate use of resident finances", instead of financial abuse, "poor quality care", is used instead of neglect.

The committee were informed that "there is a need to make sure that people know they have rights; where to go; who to access; that it is safe for them; and that making a report will not impact them". 

If you are concerned about an adult in your life whom you may suspect may be at risk of abuse, check out what you can do to safeguard that person by visiting the Safeguarding Ireland, support the person to make a referral to Sage Advocacy. If you want more information on Adult Safeguarding, check out the resources section on my new website 

Maighread Kelly is a Social Care Consultant specialising in Adult Safeguarding, for information on her services, click on her website here. For access to the full report, click here