HSE National Safeguarding Office Report 2021 published ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

 If you, or someone you know, is suffering abuse, don’t be silent. Tell someone and seek support.


Today, (Tuesday 14th June 2022), the HSE has published the 2021 National Safeguarding Office Report.  This Report reviewed HSE safeguarding operations and data, and offers insights into trends, challenges and opportunities. It also highlights the resilience and adaptability of safeguarding teams and staff in designated roles to respond to the needs of adults at risk of abuse.

The safety and protection of adults at risk of abuse is a key priority for the HSE. All adults who are at risk of abuse have a right to be protected and have any concerns regarding abusive experiences addressed. They have a right to be treated with respect and to feel safe, regardless of the setting in which they live. The current adult safeguarding policy, Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse - Policy and Procedures (HSE, 2014) and the programme of adult safeguarding services are all part of a range of measures to support the welfare and safety of adults who may be vulnerable and at risk of abuse. More information about Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults can be found on the HSE website.

According to Tim Hanly, General Manager of the HSE National Safeguarding Office, “The publication of the National Safeguarding Office Report 2021 is firstly a timely reminder of the central position that adult safeguarding plays across our health and personal social care services. This is of particular resonance when we consider the individual stories and experiences behind the activity data and statistics contained in this annual report.

“Its publication also again highlights the vital work of HSE Safeguarding social workers working with a range of staff in designated roles. These personnel require primary safeguarding legislation to strengthen practice and support effective interagency collaboration in reaching best conclusions for adults at risk of abuse.”

2021 is the sixth year the HSE has published data on adult safeguarding activity. It represents screenings undertaken by designated officers operating in HSE and HSE-funded services as well as direct community referrals to the HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teams.

The significant messages from the 2021 figures are:

  • The total number of safeguarding concerns reported to the HSE Safeguarding and Protection Teams in 2021 was 11,640. This represented a 10% increase on reported figures from 2020.
  • The age profile of adults that are the subject of notifications is 67% for those under 65 years of age, and 33% for those aged over 65.
  • The total number of notifications for persons aged over 65 was 3,671; of these, 1,320 were over 80 years. While the overall number of concerns reported for those over 65 years has increased on previous years, it is still significantly below what would be expected for both community and residential settings.
  • For adults aged under 65, the most significant category of alleged abuse is psychological (46%), followed by physical abuse (34%). This replicates the figures from 2020 and indicates an increase in instances of psychological abuse being associated with another alleged abuse type.
  • For adults aged 65-79 years, the most significant category of alleged abuse is psychological abuse (42%), physical (25%) and financial abuse (16%).
  • For adults over 80 years, the most significant category of alleged abuse is psychological (36%), financial (21%), and physical (17%).
  • In relation to the person allegedly causing concern, in those under 65 years, two out of three cases identified “another service user”. In contrast for those over 65 years, almost half of the concerns report “immediate family members”.
  • In seven out of ten cases the outcome agreed with the Safeguarding and Protection Team was “reasonable grounds for concern”.

The Report also provides an outline on training programmes delivered during the year, including the Safeguarding Adults at Risk of Abuse eLearning (with 52,205 completions), Extend my Learning Resource for Managers, and the blended approach to designated officer training.

The recently published Safeguarding Ireland report Identifying Risk, Sharing Responsibilities sets out the fundamental requirements for a comprehensive approach to safeguarding adults at risk of abuse in the state. These requirements include an all-sector approach to safeguarding overseen by an independent safeguarding authority, underpinned by adult safeguarding legislation.

Meanwhile, if you, or someone you know, is suffering abuse, don’t be silent. Tell someone and seek support. Anyone experiencing elder abuse can call the HSELive on 1800 700 700 -Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm. You can also contact a health professional such as GP, public health nurse or social worker. 

For more information on adult safeguarding and the contact details for HSE Adult Safeguarding Teams visit www.hse.ie/safeguarding.

Last updated on: 14 / 06 / 2022