Review of vulnerable adult protection in NI

There will be a review of vulnerable adult protection in Northern Ireland.

Edwin Poots,The Northern Ireland Health Minister is looking into creating new policy to ensure the protection of vulnerable adults in care.  His announcement of a review of the system came after the number of people alleging abuse against vulnerable adults was revealed to be 1,184 referrals to health trusts in 2009-2010, the last year for which there is accurate data.  Of these 1,184 referrals almost two-thirds, 750, were considered serious enough for a protection plan to be put in place.

Responsibility for child protection falls to the department of health and the five health and social care trusts who are individually responsible for providing residential care services to children and young people within their areas.

There were also 1,271 child protection referrals for the quarter ending 31 March 2011, which was almost 20% higher compared with both the previous quarter and the same quarter in 2010.

When complaints are considered serious enough for a protection plan to be implemented, the matter is handed over to the police and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) to investigate.  So far it has not been possible to ascertain how many of these alleged abuses ended up on court or with a criminal conviction. The PSNI turned down a Freedom of Information request on the subject saying it exceeded the “appropriate costs limit”. Another re-worded request has been tabled.

The extent of the number of concerns raised over vulnerable adults in care came to light following the story of a 15-year-old girl whose family allege she was mistreated while in respite care.  

Her father Dermod told the BBC that he hopes she dies before him so she will not have to go back into care.  Katie has a rare chromosome abnormality, meaning she has a mental age of around three and is in need of constant care. She is 15 now but in just three years will be classified as a vulnerable adult and become part of that care system.