Review of Action on Elder Abuse Conference June 2018

Karon Walton, Chief Legal Officer for SFE attended the Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) conference on 15th June 2018 at the ORT House in London.

The conference chairman, Dr John Beer, opened proceedings and welcomed delegates to the conference.  He said that he wanted all the delegates to support the AEA’s campaign for Elder Abuse to be made a hate crime and to actively write to their local MP’s if a crime occurred in their areas, which involved an older person.

He asked that everyone sign the AEA petition to make Elder Abuse an aggravated offence

The keynote speaker at the conference was Baroness Sally Greengross, the Chief Executive for the International Longevity Centre – UK. Baroness Greengross stated that there are more older people today who are at risk of becoming victims and that abuse is never acceptable.  She stated that we all have a great capability of influencing policies and we should all support the AEA’s campaign to introduce a new aggravated offence of elder abuse.

She went on to say that there was systematic invisibility and a few reasons for this was that older people are not being represented in domestic abuse services and that the services are not effectively targeted at older victims.  She stated the biggest challenge within elder abuse was faced by minority communities, where culture is a significant determinant in the way in which elder abuse is manifested and perceived.  She stated that 81% of people from black and minority ethnic communities experiencing abuse stated that they could do nothing about it.

She specified that the problems of abuse where hidden in plain sight and that we need to have zero tolerance of all forms of abuse, we must listen and support people, act to alleviate people’s loneliness and isolation, treat each person as an individual and respect people’s right to privacy and ensure people feel able to complain without fear of retribution.

Next, there was talk from Jess Asato, Public Affairs Manger from SafeLives who discussed their research gained from older survivors of domestic abuse.  She stated that older victims take twice as long, in their situations, before they seek help and nearly half of the victims have some form of disability.

She said that older victims are hugely under-represented in domestic services, with the research showing that 80% of older adults are not visible to services and out of those who are, a quarter of them have lived with the abuse for more than 20 years.

She went on to explain some of the reasons why there are barriers to older people seeking support. This included professionals who lack the training for older people in domestic abuse situations, medical professionals and social workers who look at it through the lens of age rather than domestic abuse; living with an abuser for a longer period making it harder to seek help particularly when they are generally dependent on them.

Older victims may have generational attitudes which make it harder for them to recognise abuse and will be less aware of support services which would not have existed when the abuse started.

There appears to a misconception that older people do not suffer domestic abuse.  She said that domestic abuse campaigns do not focus on older people and that any refuges there are, seldom have provision for older victims, particularly those with disability and mobility issues.

Next to speak was Detective Superintendent Jane Corrigan from the Metropolitan Police.  She spoke about the hidden problem of domestic abuse.  She reported that last year there were 1.9 million adults who were victims of domestic abuse, which has the highest rate of repeat victimisation than for any other crime and that it is hugely under reported, particularly with older people.  However, under reported domestic abuse has increased by 92% in those over 65.

She went on to say that the Metropolitan Police Service’s response to domestic abuse has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and continues to change.

In the afternoon there were talks from Hannah Bowes from the University of Durham who spoke about sexual violence and older people.  She presented her data from the first national study examining sexual violence against people age 60 and over.

Cassandra Wiener from the University of Sussex talked about the new legislation of coercive control, what it is and how to identify it.  The legislation is relatively recent, so it is still being tested in the courts especially in part of the offence where “serious effect” can be difficult to evidence, especially if the victim has endured behaviour for a long time and it is harder to show “change” of the victim.

Throughout the day there we various workshops that attendees could attend which included: what is self-neglect; the work of the Silver Project; how the Care Act is working or not working; safeguarding adult reviews and serious case reviews; how the Crown Prosecution Service processes cases; and how Wales is tackling the hidden problem of domestic violence.

(Author: Karon Walton)