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Tizard report advances knowledge and understanding of the abuse of vulnerable adults

Researchers at the Tizard Centre, University of Kent, have conducted the most detailed analysis of adult protection referrals ever carried out in the UK. They used information from Kent and Medway Councils’ records, which are among the most detailed of any local authorities in England.

Their study found that:

(1) Older people dominate the abuse landscape. Those at greatest risk of abuse are older women, those living in a care home and those who have a long term illness (probably dementia). Some sub-groups are also at risk of abuse from relatives and carers, especially those who co-abuse and those who are highly dependent on their relatives for help or support. Older people with mental health needs were most likely to be referred for multiple types of abuse. People with learning disabilities are much more likely than those in other client groups to have alerts raised about sexual abuse.

(2) Where people live determines the characteristics of abuse. The project found a link between location or setting, perpetrator and type of abuse. If a person lives in a care home they are more likely to be abused by a member of staff and experience institutional abuse or neglect; people with learning disabilities may experience sexual abuse. Those living in a domestic setting with others, primarily relatives, tend to be at risk of financial, physical or psychological abuse. Older people living alone are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse by family members or, to a lesser extent, care workers.

(3) Out-of-area clients are different. People from out-of-area, the majority with learning disabilities, tend to experience more multiple abuse and more neglect and discriminatory abuse than within area clients. However, they also appear to receive more robust and effective responses to adult protection alerts.

(4) The presence of an adult protection co-ordinator makes a difference. More adult protection alerts were generated by districts where adult protection co-ordinators were in place than where they were not. This is not surprising since one of the criteria for deploying adult protection co-ordinators was the workload in each district. Cases in districts with co-ordinators were more likely to result in increased monitoring, post-abuse work with the victim and with a vulnerable perpetrator and less likely to result in no further action.

Overall, the project addressed the research questions as thoroughly as possible given the limitations of the data. It advanced knowledge and understanding of the abuse of vulnerable adults and explored the role of multi-agency policies and procedures, including the role of specialist adult protection workers, in highlighting the needs of abused adults, responding to abuse and protecting those who are vulnerable.

A full copy of the report or a summary of findings is available from:

The report was authored by Paul Cambridge, Julie Beadle-Brown, Alisoun Milne, Jim Mansell and Beckie Whelton at the Tizard Centre.

Karen Baxter | alfa
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