Age Cymru calls for legislation on elderly abuse claims
The Welsh government is being urged to introduce legislation to force public authorities to investigate allegations or suspicions of abuse of the elderly.
The charity Age Cymru is launching a “rule out abuse” campaign, calling for authorities to be forced to investigate all concerns of abuse of the elderly.
Deputy minister for children and social services Gwenda Thomas said she was committed to introducing legislation.
Such measures have been in place in Scotland since 2007.
The Adult Support and Protection Act puts a duty on local authorities in Scotland to investigate concerns of adult abuse, whether elderly or otherwise vulnerable, and to co-operate in other bodies’ investigations.
Age Cymru’s Victoria Lloyd said there was “serious concern” as the lack of legal obligation in Wales makes it difficult for local authorities to gather information and receive cooperation from all parties involved.
She said that can result in unnecessary delays in protecting victims and tackling abuse.
“With an estimated 39,000 older people in Wales suffering elder abuse in their own homes action is desperately needed,” she added.
“This is why Age Cymru feels that introducing a legal obligation to investigate suspected cases of abuse would be a significant step forward in ruling out elder abuse in Wales once and for all.”
Sarah Stone, deputy older people’s commissioner in Wales, said legislation was an “absolute must” to help people working in the sector understand their responsibilities.
“It raises the stakes – it provides absolute clarity,” she said.
“I think it would be welcomed by practitioners on the ground – the law is complicated at the moment.
“We need something which is much clearer and stronger.”
Most elder abuse is carried out by people who have are in a position of trust with the victim, the charity says.
It says 22% of people in Wales have reported coming across a situation where they judged that an older person might be suffering abuse, mistreatment or neglect.
Most adult abuse referrals involve people aged 65 and over and 69% of this group are women.
Gwenda Thomas said she gave a commitment on legislation in February.
“I will be introducing the social services bill in October next year, so in January we will be consulting on the contents of that bill, and that will include the measure on safeguarding,” she said.
A previous call for legislation to protect older people in Wales was made in 2009 by Help the Aged Cymru and Age Concern Cymru, who later merged to form Age Cymru.
They carried out a two-year study after a 2007 UK government survey revealed that older people in Wales were more likely to face abuse than in any other UK nation.
An investigation by the BBC Radio Wales current affairs series Eye on Wales can be heard on the BBC iPlayer.