Nearly 8,000 cases of adult abuse were reported to the Health Service Executive last year - the first time figures for the reported abuse of adults have been recorded.

The figures come as the National Safeguarding Committee begins a nationwide campaign to increase awareness of the abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults.

The cases of abuse reported to the HSE last year included claims of physical, psychological and financial abuse and neglect.

Of the 7,884 cases of abuse reported for adults up to the age of 64, the most common was physical, while for older people, psychological abuse was the most common type reported.

People with physical or intellectual disabilities, mental health problems or dementia were among those likely to experience these forms of abuse, most of which was reported to the HSE by voluntary agencies, with just 6% being reported by the victims or their families.

The chair of the National Safeguarding Committee has said she feels the figures in relation to financial abuse of vulnerable adults are an under-estimate.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Patricia Rickard-Clarke said a Red C survey, carried out earlier this year, found there was a lack of understanding of abuse.

In addition she said people and financial institutes did not know who to report abuse to, which she said was "a clear issue".

The NSC said the figures show the need for more public awareness, and the need for greater policy and legal frameworks to safeguard vulnerable adults.