A new public awareness campaign launching in Bristol next week highlights the impact of abuse on vulnerable adults who are unable to protect themselves.
The campaign is organised by the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board as part of Stop Adult Abuse Week (13 – 19 June 2016) and groups from across the city are joining together to highlight the issue.
People with care and support needs, such as older people or people with disabilities, are more likely to be abused as they may be less able to protect themselves, identify abuse or to report it. Action on Elder Abuse estimates that 500,000 older people are abused in the UK every year as reporting increases thanks to greater public awareness and better reporting procedures being in place.
Louise Lawton, Chair of the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board, said: “Abuse isn’t something that people like to talk about, so we need to work hard to bring the issue into the public consciousness. It can happen anywhere and take many forms, so we’ve all got a responsibility to be alert to it. Having strong support networks in place can help people protect themselves against abuse and we can all play a role here – whether it’s checking on a neighbour, family member, friend or colleague, there are little things anyone can do.”
“As part of this new campaign we want people to understand what ‘safeguarding’ actually means – and why it is important.”
Ahead of the awareness week a new leaflet and posters explaining what adult abuse is and how it can be reported will be distributed to providers and in public places across the city. The leaflet will also give advice about how to build resilience by staying connected to the community and aims to put the issue firmly on the public’s radar.
Care providers in the city are being encouraged to get involved by holding training events for staff, or engaging people they care for in discussions about how to overcome barriers and protect against abuse. The new materials, along with easy read guides about abuse, will be sent to all care providers in the city as well as GP surgeries and community venues such as libraries and churches. The council is also introducing mandatory training for all staff on safeguarding.
Mike Hennessey, Service Director for Adult Social Care at Bristol City Council, said: “Abuse can have devastating consequences for those subjected to it and it is our duty to safeguard the most vulnerable people in our society. Part of this work involves helping people to build resilience and feeling able to speak to someone if they think they are being mistreated. There are many organisations in Bristol working hard to enable all residents to live free from harm so there is help available for those who need it.”
Whether it’s financial, emotional, physical or sexual, adult abuse can happen to anyone who’s over 18 with care and support needs which mean they can’t protect themselves. Modern slavery and discrimination also count as abuse, as well as neglect and self-neglect, which is when an individual is not looked after properly.
Other councils across the region are also getting involved in the awareness campaign. In Bath a workshop targeted at health and social care providers is looking at self-neglect is taking place on 15 June. North Somerset is highlighting issues around modern slavery and domestic violence and in Somerset a new animation has been created to engage the public.
In South Gloucestershire practitioners, providers and local organisations including supermarkets and other public facing groups will be promoting a message to report suspected abuse.
Cllr Clare Campion-Smith, Bristol City Council Cabinet Member for the People Directorate, said: “Bristol is committed to being a safe city and abuse will not be tolerated. Services are there to support people if they need it – if in any doubt, please speak out.”
To report suspected abuse call Bristol Care Direct on 0117 922 270. For more information, the new Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board leaflet can be downloaded here: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/social-care-health/report-suspected-abuse
Ten signs that might signal abuse:
Signs of abuse can often be difficult to detect, so it’s important to trust your gut instinct. If in doubt, speak out:
- Look out for unexplained bruises and injuries
- Be alert to subtle changes in behaviour – take note if is someone is very subdued, has lost their self-esteem or changes how they act in the presence of a particular person
- If a person begins to isolate themselves and stops seeing friends and family it may be a sign that something is wrong
- Any change in appetite and weight loss or gain can be a cause for concern
- Unexplained signs of distress, tearfulness or anger may signal a problem
- If someone has possessions go missing, an unexplained lack of money or failure to pay bills this may be a sign of financial abuse
- Being unclean, unkempt or hungry may signal neglect or self-neglect
- Discouraging visits from relatives or friends on a regular basis should raise alarm bells
- Missed appointments – failing to show up at GP appointments or regular meetings could be a cause for concern
- If someone shows unusual distress at being close to someone, or at receiving personal care, this could be a sign of physical or sexual abuse
What happens after you report abuse?
If you report abuse you will always be taken seriously. You will be listened to and given information to explain what help is available. Everyone is different and will need tailored support depending on their situation and circumstances. If you are the person suffering the abuse what happens next is your decision - someone will work with you to find out what you want to happen. You can involve someone you trust to support you and may be able entitled to advocacy if you have difficulty making decisions.