Nearly 900 cases of sexual abuse or other sexual incidents allegedly took place in England’s adult social care services over a period of just three months, a new report has revealed.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which compiled the report, identified and analysed 661 statutory notifications from care providers that described 899 sexual incidents between March 1 and May 31, 2018.
Of these notifications, 46% came from residential homes, 28% from nursing homes, 12% from domiciliary care services and 2.5% from other services, such as supporting living, Shared Lives and extra care housing.
Nearly 60% of these incidents were alleged to be carried out by people who use the services, while 16% of the alleged incidents were carried out by employed staff or visiting workers, and in 8% of cases it was friends or relatives.
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 CQC described the findings as “utterly devastating” and called for providers and leaders across adult social care to develop a culture that encourages people and staff to talk about sexuality and raise concerns around safety.
Kate Terroni, chief inspector of Adult Social Care at the CQC, said: “We know that an open culture, where staff feel they can share concerns without fear of reprisal, where people and families are empowered to speak about their wants and needs in a sensitive way, and where managers and providers proactively enable conversations about sexuality to take place are the conditions that lead to people being empowered to stay safe and supported.
“However, our report also shows all too starkly the other side of this – the times when people are harmed in the very place they should be kept safe. This is utterly devastating, both for the people directly affected and their loved ones. While we are aware that sexual incidents in care services are not common, we know from speaking to those affected that the impact and consequences can be life-changing. Their message to us is that more needs to be done to prevent sexual abuse happening.”
The CQC has recommended the production of guidance for care managers and staff that focuses on how to protect people using adult social care from sexual abuse, and how to support them to develop and maintain relationships and express their sexuality.
The regulator said that inspectors should also consider how open cultures are to discuss sex and sexuality and ensure that care plans give appropriate consideration to people’s needs around sexuality and relationships.
“It is not good enough to put this issue in a ‘too difficult to discuss’ box. It is particularly because these topics are sensitive and complex that they should not be ignored,” said Terroni.
“We are clear that abuse in any form can never be accepted and we must act on the findings of this report to help providers and care staff protect people from sexual harm, while enabling people to continue or develop intimate relationships. We are confident that with the right commitments across the sector we can achieve both.”
Commenting on the report, Terry Donohoe, policy officer at United Kingdom Homecare Association, told Home Care Insight: “It is important that across the adult social care sector people should be supported, and have the confidence not only to discuss their needs and feelings around relationships and sexuality, but also to raise concerns about safety.
“CQC’s report offers the opportunity for this subject to be discussed more openly and encourages kindness, compassion and respect for both staff and those they care for.
“UKHCA supports CQC’s recommendation that Skills for Care co-produce an update to their guidance on ‘Supporting personal relationships’.”
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “We welcome CQC’s attitude towards sexual abuse, it simply should not be tolerated. It is however high time for a conversation to be had about allowing people in receipt of care to have the relationships that they choose”.
“Care England will be seeking an on-going dialogue with CQC to ensure that the recommendations within the report can come to fruition and how best our members, care providers, can develop ways of initiating open conversations where people are supported to express their sexuality.”