MORE than 7,000 safeguarding concerns were made about vulnerable adults in BCP and Dorset last year, new figures show.

Age UK said the figures, which showed the number of concerns raised across England doubling in the last four years, coincided with a period of long-term underfunding from the Government.

NHS Digital figures show 4,865 concerns of abuse were made about adults with care and support needs in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole in the year to March. There were 2,395 concerns raised in the Dorset Council area.

The number of abuse concerns rose to 475,560 across England last year, more than double the number there were in 2015-16.

Age UK said this increase was significant, but said it was hard to judge how much of this was due to greater awareness, instead of an increase in abuse.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams added: "However, it is important to note that the biggest single category of these concerns was that of 'neglect', mostly applying to people living in their own homes.

"We know that both social care and community health services, like district nurses, were under enormous pressure at this time due to long term underfunding, weakening the safety net that protects older people living at home, many of them alone.

"These worrying figures may reflect the struggle of our vital local health and care services to meet the needs of growing numbers of sick older people living at home, with static or decreasing government resources.

"And sadly, we can only guess at how bad the same figures may turn out to be next year, once the impact of the pandemic is factored in."

If councils believe an adult with care and support needs is experiencing or is at risk of abuse or neglect, they must carry out a Section 42 enquiry, to determine whether they need to take action.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council completed 825 such enquiries last year with 360 in Dorset.

Nearly half involved neglect or acts of omission, followed by physical abuse, financial or material abuse.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said any abuse of people in care is "abhorrent" and has no place in society.

He added: “If an adult with care and support needs appears to be at risk and unable to protect themselves, the local authority has a statutory duty to carry out safeguarding enquiries. Any kind of abuse should immediately be reported and the police involved if necessary.

“Our priority is to ensure everyone gets the care and support they need throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with £4.6 billion made available so local authorities can address pressures on local services caused by the pandemic, including in adult social care.”