Cuts blamed as abuse doubles

ACCUSATIONS of abuse of vulnerable adults in Doncaster have almost doubled in the last two years, according to "worrying" new figures.

A report by the borough's Adult Protection Partnership reveals claims of maltreatment of pensioners and disabled people have shot up from 137 in the year ending March 2005 to 264 cases for the same period ending this year.

And this year's figure is a 40 per cent rise on the 2006 total of 188.

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Most of those accused of abuse were relatives, and most of the accusations came from Doncaster Council staff.

Most of the allegations - 64 per cent - made to social services involved pensioners. A quarter involved people with learning disabilities, seven per cent to the physically disabled and four per cent to people with mental health problems. They were split almost evenly between alleged incidents in care homes and the community.

The police were called in to investigate 89 of the cases. Of all this year's allegations being dealt with by council officers, 76 of the cases are still open.

Doncaster Council says the increase is because social workers are more aware of the issue.

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But that has sparked concerns that they have failed to report cases in the past.

Community Group leader Coun Martin Williams added: "I think the figures are alarming, and I think it means we're becoming a less caring society. I think the best deterrent would be harsher punishments for those who are doing the abusing.

"If we are saying we are reporting it more, does that mean we were not reporting it in the past?"

Deputy leader of the Doncaster Council's Alliance of Independent Members wants action to find out why the number of reports has increased so sharply.

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Coun Tony Brown said he was concerned about the effect spending cuts in social services would have on what could be done to look at the issue.

"If it shows that people's readiness to report is up, then that is a good thing," he said. "But we need to give serious consideration to why this increase has happened and what action is being taken. What resources are going to be put into finding out the root cause?

"I think this suggests the resources are not there, and I am concerned that we've already cut back too far."