Over 500,000 Older People Abused Each Year: Protect Your Service Users

A national campaign, launched by Action on Elder Abuse (AEA), has called for abuse of older people to be treated as an aggravated criminal offence, in the same way as offences that are racially or religiously motivated.

The charity says that the Criminal Justice System is failing to protect older people through its failure to deliver justice and its research suggests that many perpetrators are perceived to get away with their crimes.

The report highlights how many cases of abuse are dealt with via police cautions rather than formal prosecution and, even in those cases where prosecution takes place, sentences are often suspended or a community service order is issued rather than imposing a custodial sentence.

Freedom of Information requests from the charity revealed a widespread lack of record keeping in relation to abuse by the police and courts. Within one police force, 76 cautions were issued in a 12-month period, without a single case leading to prosecution.

With a continued focus on the protection of vulnerable older people, you should be taking every practical measure to safeguard the wellbeing of your service users. Read on to learn more about the measures you should have in place to protect your service users from harm.

AEA estimates that between 500,000 and 800,000 older people are abused in their own homes each year. However, in 2013/14 only 28,000 cases of elder abuse were substantiated as being criminal acts by adult protection teams and, of those, only 3,317 referrals were made by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service.

AEA’s Chief Executive, Gary FitzGerald, said ‘Elder abuse is a crime and it’s long overdue for it to be treated as one. The UK has slipped far behind other countries in this regard and we are allowing perpetrators to act with impunity. This has to stop. We have to send a clear message to these people that crimes against older people will no longer be tolerated or treated leniently.’

Protect Your Service Users with Our 5 Practical Steps to Good Safeguarding Practice

  1. Induction. Ensure all members of staff, no matter what their role, complete safeguarding and whistleblowing training as part of their induction and are updated at least once a year. New staff will often be the first to notice poor practice and may be the person to whom a service user feels most able to disclose their concerns. Ensuring staff are safeguarding aware from day one will ensure no concerns are missed.
  2. Champion safeguarding. Appoint a Safeguarding Champion amongst your staff team whose responsibility it is to raise awareness of good practice and check on staff knowledge. Including all grades of staff helps send out the message that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility, not just the management team.
  3. Discuss safeguarding regularly. Include safeguarding as a standing item at all staff meetings and supervisions, in order to prompt staff to discuss concerns at an early stage before they grow into more serious issues.
  4. Use feedback. Take seriously and act upon feedback from service users and relatives. Concerns or complaints might be a sign of more widespread problems.
  5. Learn from experience. When incidents or near misses arise, use these as learning opportunities using reflective practice. Encouraging staff to think about how a situation arose, or could have been avoided, can guide good practice for the future.

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