The number of vulnerable elderly adults complaining that they are being abused, often by members of their own family, has shot up in Birmingham.

Complaints to city social services are on course to jump by 20 per cent this year.

So far during 2009-10 almost 1,500 incidents have been referred to the city council’s Safeguarding Adults Board, which has legal powers to intervene.

The majority of allegations involve complaints about elderly people and adults with learning difficulties suffering physical and financial abuse.

Cases investigated include a man with serious head injuries whose savings were being stolen by his family.

An order by the Court of Protection barred the family from becoming involved in his care plan.

In another case the safeguarding board obtained a Forced Marriage Prevention Order to stop a young adult being removed from the country against his wishes.

A third case involved an elderly woman in a city care home who fell out of her wheelchair while visiting a pub with carers.

She broke both legs, had a leg amputated and subsequently died.

An investigation found that risk assessments had not been carried out and the woman had not been strapped back into the wheelchair after eating a meal.

The biggest increase in complaints comes from adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues, the council social services scrutiny committee heard.

In 2007, the Commission for Social Care Inspection described the council’s adults safeguarding service as poor.

Since then, the classification has been revised to adequate.

Pete Morgan, head of the safeguarding adults service at the council, said: “It is only through increased vigilance of all people who come into contact with vulnerable people that incidents of abuse will be reduced in number and reported more efficiently.

“There has been a significant improvement in the number of agencies engaged in the process of safeguarding adults in Birmingham in the past three years.”

Mr Morgan said it was a common misconception that the majority of abuse involving elderly people occurred in care homes.

Almost half of the cases reported to the council involve incidents in people’s own homes.

He added: “If we think the citizens of Birmingham will ever by 100 per cent safe we are deluding ourselves.”

However, he admitted safeguarding still had to improve.

Mr Morgan added: “Bearing in mind where we started from two years ago, I think progress in Birmingham has been huge.”