We all have a role to play in protecting older people from abuse
An action group1 working to stop the abuse of older people is urging the public to report any concerns they may have if they fear an older person may be at risk of or is experiencing abuse.
Under the current lockdown measures, many of the usual opportunities to identify abuse – through contact with professionals at routine appointments, for example – have been lost, meaning older people could be missing out on potentially life-saving help and support.
Despite the Covid-19 disruption, safeguarding teams and support services are still up and running, investigating concerns and ensuring that people get the help they need so they are safe.
While our contact with others is limited at this time, there are still signs we can all look out for that could indicate someone is experiencing abuse. These include physical signs, such as unexplained bruising or other injuries, or behavioural changes, such as becoming withdrawn, not being allowed to leave the house (even for daily exercise), reduced contact with family or friends, or changes in the way someone uses social media.
Anyone who has concerns about an older person should contact their local council’s social services safeguarding team or their local police on 101 (in an emergency call 999).
The group is also encouraging key workers and volunteers who may come into contact with older people to complete a new online domestic abuse training course that has been developed by Aberystwyth University’s Dewis Choice Project2.
The training covers a range of areas, including the ways older people may experience domestic abuse, the barriers that may prevent people seeking help, the impact of abuse on people’s mental health and well-being, and the sources of help and support available.
The training also includes a Safety Planning Toolkit which has been developed based on the lived experiences of over 100 victim-survivors that engaged with the Dewis Choice Initiative.
Sarah Wydall, who leads the Dewis Choice Initiative said:
“Since isolation began we have seen a rise in the number of practitioners contacting us for advice, particularly for guidance around safety planning in these new circumstances. We know from our experience that isolation can increase the severity of abuse and limit people’s opportunities for seeking help and support. By offering this online training and copies of our practitioner guidance, we are able to equip frontline staff with the resources to provide the best possible response to older victim-survivors of domestic abuse.”
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said:
“It’s crucial that those who are at risk of or experiencing abuse are protected and can get the help and support they need. We all have a role to play in protecting older people, and looking out for the signs of abuse and reporting any concerns we have could literally be life-saving.
“So I would urge anyone who has any concerns that an older person they know may be at risk of or experiencing abuse to contact their council’s safeguarding team or the police.
“I would also urge key workers throughout Wales who are coming into contact with older people to complete the Dewis Choice training, as this will give them the knowledge and information they need about how to identify abuse and where they can go to get an older person vital help and support during this difficult time.”
1 – The newly-formed action group comprises members from the following organisations:
Older People's Commissioner for Wales
Wales Violence Prevention Unit
Dyfed Powys Police
Get Safe Online
Hourglass Cymru (Formerly Action on Elder Abuse Cymru)
National Independent Safeguarding Board
National Trading Standards Scams Team
NHS Safeguarding Network
North Wales Police
Public Health Wales
Royal College of Nursing
Shared Regulatory Services
South Wales Police
Trading Standards (Wales representative)
Welsh Women’s Aid
2 – About the Dewis Choice Project
- Dewis Choice is a co-produced initiative consisting of a bespoke service designed by older people and a longitudinal research study, capturing the lived experiences of older people seeking help and justice.
- Dewis Choice provides a dedicated ‘whole family’ service for women and men aged 60 years and over, who have experienced DVA from an intimate partner, ex-intimate partner and/or adult family member(s). Adopting an inclusive approach, the service also supports older lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) clients, and cases where DVA and dementia co-exist.
- Drawing on their previous research findings within the United Kingdom, and developed by older people alongside a diverse range of professionals over a five-month period, the service element of the initiative aims to empower older victim-survivors to make informed choices about their justice options, be they civil, criminal and/or restorative. Co-production facilitated a design that is responsive to the needs of the community and compliments existing service provision.
- The initiative is developed so that the service team can deliver intensive support for up to an 18-month period, to help clients recover from their abusive experiences and to promote their wellbeing. Thus, the service response includes crisis intervention and long-term intensive support that integrates prevention and recovery for older people. The service response works with older clients to improve their sense of wellbeing in the context of DVA.
The Dewis Choice training can be accessed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org