20,000 safeguarding concerns in region in first year of Covid

More than 20,000 safeguarding concerns were flagged about vulnerable adults in the Black Country and Staffordshire during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

Age UK said abuse and neglect may have thrived behind closed doors throughout periods of lockdown, contributing to a stark national rise in the number of concerns flagged with councils between April 2020 and March this year.

NHS Digital figures show 3,365 concerns about adults with care and support needs were reported to the council in Wolverhampton in that period, up from the 2,670 recorded the year before – a 26 per cent difference.

A further 3,815 concerns about adults with care and support needs were reported to the authority in Sandwell, up from the 3,080 recorded the previous year – a 24 per cent difference. There was an 11 per cent difference in Walsall – with 2,565 concerns reported to the council, up from the 2,310 recorded the year before.

Over in the Dudley, it remained roughly the same as the previous year – with 5,295 concerns reported to the council. But the figures show the numbers in Staffordshire fell during the period to 3,060, down from the 4,065 – a 25 per cent drop.

Nationally, nearly 500,000 safeguarding concerns were flagged that year, up five per cent, with the very elderly – those aged over 85 – most likely to be the subject.

If councils believe a vulnerable adult is experiencing or is at risk of abuse or neglect, they must carry out a Section 42 enquiry to determine whether action should be taken. Around 2,960 such enquiries were launched in Staffordshire during the year to March, while there were 1,820 in Sandwell, 760 in Walsall, 465 in Wolverhampton and 300 in Dudley. Councillor Nicolas Barlow, Dudley Council’s cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “It’s really reassuring to see that people are raising safeguarding concerns through the appropriate channels. It is only by people referring these issues to us that we are able to take action.”

A spokesman for Walsall Council said: “Safeguarding our residents with care and support needs is a high priority for Walsall Council.

“The past 18 months has been an unprecedented time for all and, during the pandemic, organisations in Walsall have worked as a system to support residents and to put extra safeguards in place.”

Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for adults, social care and health Councillor Suzanne Hartwell said: “Sandwell Council and our partners have continued to work to safeguard adults at risk throughout the pandemic.

“Like other local authorities, we have seen an increase in safeguarding referrals and these are assessed and investigated in line with our policy.

“We welcome the increased public awareness of adult safeguarding and would encourage any member of the public with concerns about adult safeguarding to email sandwell_enquiry@sandwell.gov.uk or call 0121 569 2266.”

Dr Johnny McMahon, cabinet support member for public health and integration at Staffordshire County Council said: “Safeguarding concerns range from reports of minor incidents in care homes to very serious concerns about physical, emotional and financial abuse of vulnerable adults.

“The county council investigates all concerns an carries out a full S42 enquiry where necessary.”

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