Department of Health and Social Care
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Comic Relief research shows numbers of older people abused at home

Comic Relief research shows numbers of older people abused at home

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release (2007/0157) issued by The Government News Network on 14 June 2007

New research, revealing the true extent of abuse suffered by older people in the UK, was released today by Comic Relief, Chief Executive, Kevin Cahill and Health Minster, Ivan Lewis.

The UK Study of Abuse and Neglect, carried out over two years by independent researchers at National Centre for Social Research and Kings College, London, was based on a survey of around 2000 people aged 66 and over who live in their own homes (including sheltered housing).

The findings of the study show that:

- 2.6% or 227,000 people were neglected or abused by family, close
friends and care workers in the last year; and

- 4% or 342,400 people were neglected or abused in the last year by
family, close friends and care workers, neighbors and acquaintances
(i.e. a broader definition of those who might abuse).

- Mistreatment is broken down into neglect (1.1%), financial abuse
(0.7%), psychological and physical abuse (both 0.4%) and sexual
abuse (0.2%).

- The majority of the incidents involved a partner (51%) or another family member (49%) followed by a voluntary or paid care worker (13%) and close friend (5%).

Kevin Cahill, CEO, Comic Relief said:

"Comic Relief feels passionately that growing older with dignity, free from abuse is something we should all expect rather than aspire to. Using some of the money raised through Red Nose Day we have taken the lead in funding this research and over the years, through appeal films and the BBC ONE drama 'Dad' we have helped raise awareness of this enormous social issue.

Thousands of older people are suffering abuse and this robust research means we can no longer deny that society's attitude towards older people is a problem.

Now that we have achieved this first step these figures need to be used positively so decision makers and care givers can ensure that if anyone faces abuse they can get access to services and receive the help they need.

People are living longer and the numbers of older people are set to rise in the following decades.

This is the first time Comic Relief has funded research, and from the findings we hope we have provided the evidence to effect change."

Care Services Minister, Ivan Lewis said:

"This research gives us the first objective and scientific assessment of the prevalence of elder abuse. We now have with some precision an up-to-date estimate of the size of the challenge that we face. Older people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect - abuse in any setting is just unacceptable.

"I want people to be as outraged by the abuse of an older person as they are by the abuse of a child. Sadly, we are nowhere near that yet as a society but that culture has to change.

"This research shows us the nature of the problems that we will all face in the future.

"That's why today I'm announcing two measures for the first time, national and local records on the abuse of older people will be systematically collected so that each individual council can monitor abuse locally and act on it.

"It is essential to put in place the mechanisms for collecting accurate and impartial data that will allow help to be targeted where it is most needed. Knowing the size of the challenge nationally is one thing but each individual council ought equally to know what's going on locally. A systematic data collection will identify this and allow comparisons between councils.

No Secrets is the existing guidance on safeguarding vulnerable adults, launched in 2000. The aim of 'No Secrets' is to ensure that health, social services and the police, are able to work together to protect vulnerable adults from abuse.

"Seven years on, and in the light of several serious incidences of adult abuse, it is timely to review this guidance and to consult with other government departments that have an interest in this field. New guidance is necessary to reflect the evidence in today's report and respond to the new demographic realities which are affecting our society. We will also consider the case for legislation as part of the review process."

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The full report can be found at http://www.comicrelief.com/elderabuse.

2. Definitions

The definition of elder abuse is widely recognised as complex.. This study started from the definition developed by Action on Elder Abuse and adopted by the World Health Organisation: A single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.

Then, importantly, the study goes on to define different types of abuse or neglect so that researchers and interviewers were clear about the behaviours, the relationship between perpetrator and the older person and the impact of the abuse. It looked at abuse that is financial, psychological, physical, sexual, and neglect.

'Mistreatment' is used in the report to refer to all forms of abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, and financial) and neglect

'Interpersonal abuse' is used to describe physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

'Neglect' is defined as "the repeated deprivation of assistance needed by the older person for important activities of daily living". The activities of daily living involved were: shopping, housework, preparing meals; not getting help with personal care (such as getting in and out of bed, washing, using a toilet) and not getting help to take medication at the right time and the right dose.

2. The research considered abuse by close relationships, family, friends and carers, and in addition to this, wider relationships with neighbors and acquaintances. The research did not look into abuse in care homes although the study did pilot methodology which has shown it could be used effectively for future research into the more challenging issue of care homes.

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