This guest blog was contributed by Mary Cox, Safeguarding Advisor in Age UK’s Service Development team.
In England there is no legal definition of elder abuse and no specific legislation for protecting vulnerable people in later life from abuse. Yet not a week goes by without our staff and volunteers encountering situations where a person’s human or civil rights having been violated by another person. This is why safeguarding is central to Age UK’s duty of care towards all people in later life.
Safeguarding encompasses prevention, empowerment, protection and justice. It is a process that allows people to live with as much independence as possible while maintaining their fundamental human right to live a life free from abuse and neglect.
Our commitment to preventing the mistreatment of people in later life includes promoting awareness of seven types of abuse: emotional, financial, physical, sexual, discriminatory, institutional and neglect. But in practice it is rare to find one type of abuse occurring in isolation. Often, situations involve ‘multiple abuse’ where two or more types of abuse are occurring simultaneously.
Understanding how and why people abuse, whether it is deliberate or unintentional, is central to our work. Also, being aware of the barriers that people face in sharing their concerns about the way they are treated by relatives, friends or ‘professional’ personnel is essential in responding effectively to our clients’ needs. We have found that there is a strong correlation between providing training and support to staff and volunteers, and an increase in the number of abuse cases we have identified.