Over 9,000 people were referred to Health and Social Care Trusts’ adult safeguarding services last year because of concerns that they had been subjected to some form of abuse, according to figures released by the Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding Partnership (NIASP).
Speaking at an event to celebrate World Elder Abuse Day, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “The challenges of dealing with abuse, exploitation or neglect should never arise, but they can and they do. The harm caused can have a devastating and long-lasting impact on victims, their families and carers.
“Safeguarding adults at risk is an absolute priority for me and for the Northern Ireland Executive. As far as possible, we must aim to prevent harm from occurring in the first place, to offer effective protection to those who are harmed and to provide them access to justice. We must adopt a zero tolerance of harm to adults which is a complex and challenging issue and requires the careful exercise of professional judgement.”
“I want to acknowledge the very positive contribution to safeguarding delivered by a wide range of organisations across the statutory, voluntary, community, independent and faith sectors.”
Justice Minister David Ford, who was at the same event emphasised his commitment to adult safeguarding, “The focus of my Department in terms of safeguarding will continue to be the protection of individuals.
“Together with our criminal justice system partners, we want to ensure that where a crime has been committed, that there is access to justice and that support services are tailored according to the victim’s needs.”NIASP is the group charged by government to take forward developments in adult safeguarding in Northern Ireland and is made up of members from the statutory, voluntary and community organisations. It is responsible for producing guidelines to strengthen adult safeguarding provisions in Northern Ireland, including a clear procedure for reporting allegations of abuse.
Kevin Keenan, chair of the NIASP said, “Every year, more and more people are seeking help to deal with their experiences of abuse in Northern Ireland. Today’s event celebrates the many developments that have taken place over the past 5 years, so the most vulnerable people in our society can continue to live free from fear of abuse, neglect or exploitation.”
At the conclusion of today’s event, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Guy Spence, and Ms Clare Keating, Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, signed the International Declaration on Elder Abuse on behalf of their respective organisations.
Participants at today’s event included the Junction Club from East Belfast; Top Ten Women’s Group, Londonderry, Artscare NI, Safer Ageing Fermanagh, Independent Health Care Providers and statutory services.