This guest blog was contributed by our national partner, Age Cymru.
All older people should have the right to a life free from abuse, where dignity, respect and safety are part of the natural fabric of society.Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
A 2007 UK Study of Abuse and Neglect of Older People found that around 340,000 (about 1 in 25) older people living in the community are affected by abuse every year.
The same study found that Wales has the highest rate of elder abuse in the whole of the UK. Based on population figures, Age Cymru estimates that 39,000 older people in Wales are victims of abuse in their own homes.
It’s sobering to then consider the total number of suspected adult abuse cases reported in Wales in 2009-2010 was just 4,913. Clearly, there is much more that we should do to protect older people from abuse.
There’s a similar story across the UK, and in many ways elder abuse remains a “hidden problem” which we know often goes unreported and unchallenged.
Recently, Mary Cox wrote a blog explaining Age UK’s work to prevent the mistreatment of people in later life in England.
Over the border, Age Cymru’s Elder Abuse project has been running in Wales for almost 6 years, working to identify ways to reduce instances of abuse and deal with it more effectively when it does occur.
For many years the project has been exploring the case for a specific law in Wales to protect adults from abuse. In Wales, there is an opportunity to make this happen now due to the new law-making powers of the National Assembly for Wales and the forthcoming Social Services (Wales) Bill.
Age Cymru has developed the Rule Out Abuse campaign, calling for increased commitment to protecting older people from abuse.
Clearer, more focussed laws, with clear duties on public bodies, including Health, Social Services and Police, to investigate and cooperate when abuse or potential abuse is reported would ensure that elder abuse is tackled with the priority it deserves.
A new law is just one of a range of tools we need to protect older people from abuse, but it’s a critical one.