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									The Commissioner’s view on Elder Abuse in Wales
Policy Position Paper No. 1 Introduction
One of the functions of the Older People‟s Commissioner is to “keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law affecting the 1 interests of older people in Wales”. Since the Commissioner took up office in late April 2008 she has had contact with older people and with voluntary and statutory bodies across Wales. The Commissioner has been made aware of deep concerns held 2 in relation to elder abuse. She recognises the valuable work already carried out in Wales to explore this issue. The Commissioner has a particular interest in the needs of older people who are in situations where they are vulnerable. This paper sets out the views formed by the Commissioner so far.

Rights Framework
The United Nations Principles for Older People aim to ensure that priority attention is given to the situation of older people. The Commissioner must have regard to these Principles when considering 4 what constitutes the interests of older people in Wales. The Commissioner considers the following Principles to be particularly relevant to the issue of elder abuse:


Principle 14: “Older persons should be able to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in any shelter, care or treatment facility, including full respect for their dignity, needs and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care and the quality of their lives.” Principle 17: “Older persons should be able to live in dignity and security and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse.”

The Commissioner’s View
1. There is a pressing need to review current legislation as it relates to the protection of older people. The law needs to be clear, accessible and in line with the need to promote equality and human rights. 2. The law is part of a wider picture and not a solution in itself. It is, however, an important tool and we need to ensure that it is an effective one. 3. Any way forward should:       engage with older people, carers and others who have direct contact with issues affecting older people; bring practical benefit to older people; promote the value and equal status of older people; reflect the United Nations Principles for Older People; take an evidence-based approach to reform; engage with voluntary and statutory bodies and the private sector in Wales.

4. Any new way forward should recognise the central importance of advocacy services for older people. Specific provision should be 5 made for the facilitation of complaints and whistle-blowing. 2

5. Any reform should lay a firm foundation for developing models of best practice, promoting awareness of the interests of older people in Wales and challenging age discrimination.

Information and Evidence
To date, the sources which have provided the Commissioner with information and evidence include:
Older people with whom she has met at meetings and on an individual basis: Pensioners‟ groups have consistently stressed the importance of dignity and respect for older people and the need to make this a practical reality. Older people often feel that their voice is not heard. They say, “Please involve us and don‟t ignore us”. Many older people say they don‟t want to make a fuss. Some older people have seen things happen that they think are wrong.

The Age Concern Cymru/Help the Aged Elder Abuse Project (funded by Comic Relief) and ICM opinion poll: So far the project has concluded that the key areas which need to be addressed are: advocacy for older people in Wales, access to justice, protection from financial abuse, developing a human rights based approach to elder abuse, and improving legislation. The ICM poll revealed that 19% of adults polled in Wales say they have personal experience of a situation where an older person was being 6 mistreated.


The National Assembly for Wales Communities and Culture Committee, “Domestic Abuse in Wales”, 2008: The Commissioner provided evidence for this inquiry. The inquiry identified older people as a group which lacks support when dealing with domestic abuse. The Committee recommended that the Welsh Assembly Government‟s domestic abuse strategy should better reflect the needs and circumstances of older people by ensuring that domestic abuse related publications make it clear that domestic abuse affects older people. The Committee further recommended that the Welsh Assembly Government should undertake research to decide whether its domestic abuse strategy could be extended to cover the abuse of older people by anyone in care homes, day centres and other regulated settings. The Committee felt that more research was needed into the needs of older 7 people affected by domestic abuse.

The Law Commission Adult Social Care Scoping Report 2008: The report identified the need for a review of the legal framework safeguarding adults from abuse. It criticised existing adult social care law as „piecemeal‟.8 The Commissioner has met with the Law Commission to discuss its findings.

The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 : The Scottish Act makes provision for the protection of „adults at risk of harm‟. The general principle underlying the Act is that a person may intervene, or authorise intervention, in an adult‟s affairs only where the person is: “...satisfied that the intervention will provide benefit to the adult; and that it is the least restrictive option of those that are available which will meet 10 the objective of the intervention”. 4


The Act sets out more specific principles to be regarded when intervening. Any public body or office-holder intervening must have regard to the adult‟s ascertainable wishes and feelings (both past and present). The views of the adult‟s nearest relative, primary carer, guardian or attorney must be considered. If the public body or office holder knows of anyone with an interest in the adult‟s well-being or 11 property, they should pay regard to their views. The adult should participate as fully as possible in any intervention and be provided with necessary information and support to enable that 12 participation.

Elder Abuse Prevalence Study - King's Institute of Gerontology and Social Care Workforce Research Unit, together with The National Centre Social Research (funded by Comic Relief and the Department of Health): The research identified that around 4% of older people have experienced abuse, including mistreatment by neighbours and acquaintances. This gives a figure of approximately 342,400 older 13 people who are subject to some form of mistreatment. This is the first authoritative set of data on the issue.

The House of Commons Health Committee report on Elder Abuse 2004: The report states that elder abuse is a hidden problem in society and has a low profile in comparison to child abuse. Definitions of elder abuse vary. Older people are often afraid, unable or embarrassed to report 14 abuse; care staff often lack training in identifying abuse.

JULY 2009



Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Act 2006, s. 2(1)(d). Elder abuse has been described by the Department of Health as taking many forms: sexual abuse; financial abuse; abuse of medication in controlling and sedating patients; physically controlling and sedating patients; physical abuse; neglect; and behaviour designed to degrade and humiliate. House of Commons Health Committee, Elder Abuse, Second Report of Session 2003-04, Volume 1, HC 111-I, Chapter 2, para. 9, p.7.



http://www.un.org/ageing/un_principles.html. Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Act 2006, s. 25. The Commissioner has power to review arrangements relating to advocacy, complaints and whistle-blowing: Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Act 2006, s. 5(1)&(2).




Press release available at http://www.accymru.org.uk/1/3470.htm. An electronic copy of this report can be found on the National Assembly‟s website: www.assemblywales.org.




http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/docs/adult_social_care_scoping_report_2008 .pdf

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/acts2007/asp_20070010_en_ 1.

The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007, s. 1 ibid., s. 2(a)–(c) ibid., s. 2(d)




Findings from this research have been published: “Mistreatment of Older People in the United Kingdom”, Biggs et al, Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, Vol. 21, Issue 1 January 2009, p. 1

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmhealth/ 111/111.pdf.


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