Age UK ‘disturbed’ by rise in elderly abuse

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The number of reports of suspected abuse of vulnerable older people has increased “disturbingly”, a charity has warned.

Age UK said that any sort of abuse against the elderly is “unacceptable”and called on ministers to ensure that vulnerable adults are given the “best possible protection” against it.

The organisation made its comments after analysis of data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) showed that there was a 4 per cent rise in the number of cases of alleged abuse referred for investigation in the past year.

English councils referred 112,000 cases of alleged abuse against vulnerable adults for investigation in 2012/13, up from 108,000 during the previous year.

Three fifths of the referrals were for vulnerable adults – described in the report as people who are or may be in need of community care services because they are elderly or suffer mental illness, a disability or another ailment – aged 65 or over.

Physical abuse and neglect were the most common types of abuse reported, the HSCIC experimental figures show.

Care workers and family were the most likely alleged abusers, according to the report.

Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: “These numbers are disturbing: even though growing awareness of the abuse of older people is likely to have contributed to the increase in the number of safeguarding concerns reported to and taken forward by English councils, they concern some of the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom feel that they have no-one to turn to for help.

“Any abuse of older people is unacceptable and we need a zero-tolerance approach to any abuse, whether through neglect, financial manipulation or physical or mental cruelty.

“Our biggest fear is that there are still many cases that are not reported and we would encourage anyone who suspects that an older person is being abused to contact their social services department or the police straight away.

“The Care Bill presents the ideal opportunity to ensure that vulnerable adults living in our community are given the best possible protection from neglect and abuse. We welcome the advances that the Bill already makes in safeguarding older and disabled people, but with some additional changes that protection could be so much more effective.

“We want to see stronger powers to investigate suspected abuse where a third person is denying access to the person, a new offence of neglect of a vulnerable person who has mental capacity, and an offence of corporate neglect so that directors of care providers can be held to account for neglect.”

Ms Abrahams pointed out that people without mental capacity already have more protection.

She called on people to call Age UK if they need advice on what to do if they suspect an older person is being abused.