Scammers target the vulnerable

Although physical abuse is on the increase, financial harm currently represents the greatest risk to vulnerable adults in the Borders, a report has revealed, writes Andrew Keddie.

Telephone and internet scams, bogus callers and thefts provided the biggest caseload for the region’s Adult Protection Unit, which investigated 79 such concerns in 2013/14.

This outstrips the 73 probes into allegations of physical harm, although that represents a 20 per cent increase on the previous year with more allegations regarding private care homes being referred to the unit.

In his annual report, David Powell, adult protection co-ordinator, said that there had been 1,253 suspicions of adults being at risk of harm referred over the year.

These had resulted in 190 investigations and, from these, 62 adults were deemed to be at actual risk with appropriate support put in place.

Mr Powell said: “When reviewing adults at risk, two particular groupings stand out – older adults and adults with a learning disability.

“Financial harm has once again been our greatest type of reported harm and work has begun with Trading Standards and Police Scotland Safer Community Teams to tackle these issues and keep people safe.

“Adults aged 71 and over account for half of all adult protection referrals in the Borders, with females in that age group at greater risk of harm than males.

“The highest levels of harm remain in the larger population areas of Hawick, Galashiels and the central Borders.”

Mr Powell noted that while the majority of abuse had occurred in the vulnerable adult’s own home, a significant number of referrals originated from the private care home sector.

He went on: “Adult protection in care homes continues to be a local and national issue. Neglect, along with some care home cultures and poor management, compound the problem.

“On a positive note, Scottish Borders and partners have robust review arrangements in place and work in partnership with care home providers and the Care Inspectorate.

“We hope to address some of these challenges and reduce harm in all 22 care homes in the region through a bespoke training package.”

Mr Powell said the advent of social media and internet dating sites had seen a rise in cyber harm to people with learning disabilities.

He said: “The digital era is here to stay and how we support these adults to keep themselves safe will continue to be a challenge.”

Jim Wilson, chair of the region’s Adult Protection Committee, said: “I believe the key structures and processes are in place to support adults at risk in the Borders.”