CASES of abuse against people with disabilities and the elderly are on the increase on Teesside, according to figures.

The South Tees Adult Protection Committee, which includes the main agencies responsible for helping to protect adults from abuse and neglect, saw a 57 per cent rise in cases between 2003 and last year - and expects a further increase this year.

A total of 155 cases were investigated, with half the cases involving physical abuse.

While most investigations were prompted by social workers, there was a significant rise in reports by hospital staff and community health workers.

Mike Sharman is the adult protection co-ordinator with Middlesbrough Council's social care department.

He said: "In all of the cases brought to our attention, all the relevant agencies got together, examined the situation carefully and came up with a joint agreement on how to deal with it.

"In many cases, this led to us providing extra support for the vulnerable person, so even where there was no formal action, something was done to improve their well-being."

Councillor Brenda Thompson, Middlesbrough Council's executive member for social care, said: "Both professionals and members of the public who are concerned about this problem can feel confident that if they report it, their concerns will be properly and promptly investigated.''

The BBC recently screened a prime-time drama, Dad, about the rising problem of abuse of adults and it was also the central theme of yesterday's Comic Relief Day events on the channel.