Adult social care leaders should promote a culture that keeps people in social care safe from sexual abuse and supports them in expressing their sexuality, the health and social care regulator says.
A new report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reveals that over a three-month period there were 661 statutory notifications that described 899 sexual incidents or incidents of alleged sexual abuse that took place in adult social care services.
These notifications were around 3% of the total notifications of abuse or alleged abuse received during this period.
According to Promoting Sexual Safety Through Empowerment, almost half (48%) of the incidents reported in this period were categorised as sexual assault, defined as sexually touching another person without their consent.
The second most common type of incident (11%) was exposure and nudity, and 8% were categorised as sexual harassment. There were 47 (5%) allegations of rape.
The majority of incidents (60%) were alleged to be carried out by people who use services. In 16% of cases, the alleged incidents were carried out by employed staff or visiting workers, and in 8% it was friends or relatives.
Of the 661 notifications, 46% were from a residential care home, 28% from a nursing home, 12% from a domiciliary care service, and 2.5% from other services, such as supported living, Shared Lives, and extra care housing.
The rest of the notifications (11.5%) were from services that provide more than one type of care provision.
The CQC researchers were told by stakeholders that sex was often seen as a ‘taboo’ subject, which meant that staff, providers and families could be reluctant to raise issues.
‘This can affect people’s wellbeing, but also means that, where there is unacceptable or predatory behaviour, this can be overlooked or normalised,’ according to the report.
Families and carers told the CQC that their loved ones were not always kept safe after an incident had happened.
Concerns were also raised about a lack of learning and development for staff, as well as a lack of policies and recruitment guidance regarding sexual safety.
The report also learnt about positive methods providers developed to help people express their sexuality.
Responding to the report, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board, said that councils take allegations of abuse ‘extremely seriously’.
‘This helpful report gives greater guidance to councils as community leaders and as commissioners, as well as to social care providers, about how to make sure people who use care and support services are able to develop and maintain relationships, to express their sexuality and to feel that they will receive the right response if they ever raise any concerns about not feeling safe,’ he said.
‘Everyone working in social care and support has a responsibility to ensure that people who use adult social care services are able to live the lives they want to lead, either in their own home or in residential or nursing care.
‘Being able to express one’s sexuality is fundamental to this and a culture of openness both supports that right and can help protect people from harm or abuse.’