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Abuse of vulnerable adults: council investigations up four per cent last year

September 12, 2013: English councils referred 112,000 cases of alleged abuse against vulnerable adults for investigation in 2012-13 provisional figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show.

*HSCIC must be cited as the source of these figures

This is a four per cent rise (from 108,000 in 2011-12) for the 151 councils submitting data in both years.

Councils also recorded an increase during the same time period in the number of alerts - usually the first contact between someone concerned about potential abuse and a council. Not all council systems categorise alerts separately, which should be considered when interpreting this information.

In 2012-13, a total of 173,000 alerts were recorded by 140 (out of 152) councils. Considering the 117 councils who recorded alerts in both years (comparing 2012-13 provisional data and 2011-12 final data), there was an approximate increase of 19 per cent (rising from 134,000 to 159,000).

Abuse of Vulnerable Adults in England 2012-13: Experimental Statistics points to a very similar breakdown of cases and outcomes to previous years in terms of alleged victims, perpetrators, locations and forms of abuse.

Today's provisional report shows that, considering the 109,000 (of 112,000) cases referred for investigation in 2012-13 where key information was known (gender, age and client type):

Vulnerable adults

  • Just over three in five (61 per cent, or 67,000)7 were aged 65 or over.
  • Half (50 per cent, or 55,000) had a physical disability.
  • Just over three in five (61 per cent, or 66,000)7 were women.

Considering the case details of those 109,000 referrals (noting that an individual referral can contain more than one type, location or perpetrator of alleged abuse):

Types of alleged abuse

  • Physical abuse was recorded in 39,000 allegations (28 per cent)
  • Neglect was recorded in 37,000 allegations (27 per cent)

Alleged perpetrators

  • Social care workers were recorded in 35,000 allegations (31 per cent)
  • A family member was recorded in 25,000 allegations (23 per cent)

Location of alleged abuse

  • The vulnerable adult's own home was recorded in 43,000 allegations (39 per cent)
  • A care home was recorded in 40,000 allegations (36 per cent)

Considering the 86,000 completed referrals where a case conclusion was recorded:

  • 37,000 were either partly or fully substantiated (43 per cent)
  • 26,000 were not substantiated (30 per cent)
  • 23,000 were inconclusive (27 per cent)

HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning said: "This report in many ways makes for uncomfortable reading, not only that thousands of cases of potential abuse against vulnerable adults are being investigated each year, but more particularly that a substantial number are proven to be of substance.

"It nevertheless plays an important role in laying bare issues affecting some of the most vulnerable in society, the role of our local authorities and also that of the public in alerting councils to cases of alleged abuse."

Today's provisional report is at:

The Final AVA Report 2012-13 will include more detail on the AVA data submitted by councils and will be published in March 2014.


Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body. The trusted source of authoritative data and information relating to health and care, HSCIC plays a fundamental role in driving better care, better services and better outcomes for patients. It supports the delivery of IT infrastructure, information systems and standards to ensure information flows efficiently and securely across the health and social care system to improve patient outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 130 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.
  2. The information presented in this report is provisional and has been taken from the first submission of 2012-13 data by councils. In September 2013, Councils will have an opportunity to review their data in response to more detailed post validation checks, which may result in some changes. The figures are therefore badged provisional.
  3. Adults refer to those aged 18 and over. A vulnerable adult is a person who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation in any care setting. This includes individuals in receipt of social care services, those in receipt of other services such as health care, and those who may not be in receipt of services.
  4. Councils referred to in this report are Councils with Social Services Responsibilities (CASSRs).
  5. An alert is defined as the first contact between someone concerned about potential abuse and a council. Not all councils record alert data andsome have stated that they do not recognise or use the term 'alert' within their processes. In some cases, all concerns received by the council about alleged abuse are recorded as referrals on the local system and cannot be split out for reporting.
  6. A referral is recorded when a report of alleged abuse leads to an adult protection investigation/assessment relating to the concerns reported. Referrals in this report are safeguarding referrals, not referrals for community care assessments, which are analysed for HSCIC's Referrals, Assessments and Packages of Care (RAP) return. The latest report that uses this data - Community Care Statistics, Social Services Activity - England, 2012-13, Provisional release was published on 10th July 2013, and is available at: 
  7. Figures have been rounded to the nearest thousand.
  8. Family members and partners are separate groups of alleged perpetrators but have been added together in this press release. Instances recorded as partner are added to the instances recorded as other family member before being divided by the total number of instances to create a percentage. An alleged perpetrator would be recorded as either partner or other family member but would not be recorded as both. There can be more than one alleged perpetrator per referral.
  9. HSCIC liaises closely with organisations to encourage submission of complete and valid data and seeks to minimise inaccuracies. However, figures are reliant upon the accurate and complete recording of referral cases by councils.
  10. For media enquires please call 0845 257 6990 or contact
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