Huge rise in safeguarding reports across West Sussex ‘could be down to greater awareness’

County Hall in Chichester
County Hall in Chichester

Reports of alleged abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults in West Sussex have almost doubled in two years.

The annual report from the county’s safeguarding adults board showed that neglect, physical abuse and financial or material abuse were the main concerns raised in 2017/18.

Others were: sexual abuse, psychological abuse, discriminatory abuse, organisational abuse and domestic abuse.

A total of 6,751 matters were raised – a 23.5 per cent increase and the highest recorded in the county – leading to the launch of 2,449 enquiries.

More than half related to people in care homes and the majority involved women.

In 2015/16, there were 3,388 reports leading to 1,473 enquiries.

Annie Callanan, independent chair of the board, told a county council select committee that the increase could be put down to raised awareness of the issues, with more people reporting their concerns.

And she predicted that new legislation governing social care introduced under the 2014 Care Act would see the figures rise.

Ms Callanan said: “We want people to be concerned about safeguarding and, in the early years of the legislation, I would expect that figure to go up if we’re doing our job properly.”

The report said that, while the majority of concerns were about people in care homes, both they and acute and mental health hospitals had seen their share of safeguarding enquiries drop.

Nationally, most concerns involved incidents in people’s homes, and the board said it would be working to find out why things were different in West Sussex, working ‘as a partnership to implement any changes required’.

Julie Phillips, head of safeguarding, said the care home figures gave a ‘slightly distorted view’ because of a recent large-scale inquiry about one provider.

Members of the select committee asked why the annual report had been received so late and Ms Callanan said there had been ‘issues’ gathering and analysing the information.

She assured them that the next one would be on time.