10% of Irish adults – roughly 38,000 people, have witnessed adult abuse in the past year and 81% have said that tougher laws would encourage them to take greater action to combat abuse – according to new research commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland.
The research, carried out by Red C, found that 12% of those who witnessed abuse of a vulnerable adult in the past year did nothing at all, while 47% discussed it with the person being abused and 40% discussed it with a trusted person.
It also showed that just 15% sought professional advice, while 3% reported what they witnessed to an authority such as the Health Service Executive (HSE) or Gardaí.
Launching the research, Safeguarding Ireland said it highlighted the need for greater resourcing of safeguarding vulnerable adults, both in terms of effective legislation and a dedicated 24-hour information and support helpline.
Safeguarding Ireland is an umbrella body representing over 30 national organisations working together to protect vulnerable adults. A nationwide public awareness campaign on safeguarding is taking from May 20-31.
Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard Clarke said: “The fact that 10% of Irish adults reported having witnessed abuse shows that official HSE figures (in excess of 10,000 alleged cases reported annually) are just the tip of the iceberg.
“When a vulnerable, or frail elderly person is forced to do something against their will – beit to do with their finances, their care, or their liberty – it is abuse and this is against the law.”
In 2015 new legislation on Assisted Decision Making was enacted, however it has yet to be implemented.
Ms Rickard Clarke continued: “The research has told us that stronger laws, which are enforced, is what will drive the public to be more vigilant in tackling adult abuse. We need these pieces of legislation in force with urgency.”