Charity call for new measures to protect older people from domestic abuse
At least 200,000 people over the age of 60 are the victim of domestic abuse each year, according to a new report.
The Age UK study said the figure is likely to be far higher due to people’s reluctance or inability to report abuse by loved ones or carers.
Furthermore, as the National Crime Survey does not record data for people over the age of 74, many older people are not included in the figures, it said.
The charity is calling for data to be recorded for people of all ages, as well as a new definition of domestic abuse to include abuse perpetrated by those who are in trusted positions and provide unpaid care, such as friends and neighbours, as well as family members.
Age UK also wants to see better training of health workers to spot abuse, such as for staff who are admitting patients to hospital, when abuse may come to light.
The call comes as the Domestic Abuse Bill is due to receive its second reading in Parliament.
In 2018/19, Age UK said it received 655 enquiries relating to domestic abuse via its advice line.
National data for 2017 also shows that more than 200,000 people aged 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales.
One in four (23%) victims of domestic homicide are over the age of 60.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said more needed to be done protect older people from abuse, including better links between the NHS and police.
She said: “There’s a widespread misconception that domestic abuse only happens to younger people, but sadly hundreds of thousands of older people are affected too.
“It’s high time that this was fully recognised by the law, policy and practice so that the needs of older survivors can be identified and properly met.
“Together with many other organisations, including the Women’s Aid Federation, we are calling on the Government to present a bold and ambitious Domestic Abuse Bill in next month’s Queen’s Speech.
“At Age UK we want this Bill to include provisions to bring older domestic abuse survivors in from the cold, and that means in particular recognising the important roles that health professionals can play in spotting when domestic abuse is going on and in supporting older survivors to get the help they need.
“It may well be that the first time domestic abuse comes to light is when an older person is admitted to hospital, or discharged back home, so it’s the professionals working with older people in these contexts who need some specific training the most.”
The Age UK report said domestic abuse “remains a highly gendered crime”, with women more likely to suffer more serious injury or be killed than male victims of domestic abuse.
Women are also more likely to experience higher levels of fear, and to be subjected to coercive and controlling behaviours.
Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Domestic abuse can happen to any woman, regardless of age.
“We know, however, that some older women might not recognise their experience as domestic abuse or may find it difficult to ask for help because they are dependent on their abuser.
“We welcome Age UK’s recommendations for the Domestic Abuse Bill, such as collecting data on all ages and embedding policy and practice across health and social care which will transform the support provided to older survivors, improving and saving lives.
“It is vital that their needs are considered in this legislation.”
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