Organisations working to safeguard and protect people who experience abuse or are the victims of crime have joined forces to ensure that older people can get the support they need to keep them safe and protected during this difficult time.
And they have a simple message for older people in Wales who may be at risk: You’re not alone. We’re here for you and we can help and support you.
Members of the newly-established action group1 are working together to make sure that older people at risk of harm have the information they need about where they can go for help, and are aware that support services are still available despite the current disruption.
They are also working to raise awareness amongst the wider public about the role we can all play in helping to protect older people.
The group has come together as the coronavirus and subsequent lockdown has resulted in some older people in Wales potentially being at greater risk of domestic (or other forms of) abuse, neglect or of being targeted by criminals.
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said:
“Whilst we’ve seen the very best of our communities over the past few weeks, with so much action underway to help and support older people, it’s crucial that we recognise that for many the past few weeks will have been incredibly difficult. Many older people will have felt frightened and alone.
“That’s why we’ve come together – to let older people know that they are not alone, that we’re here and we can help and support them.”
Director of Hourglass Cymru (formerly Action on Elder Abuse Cymru), Rachael Nicholson, said:
“Our research2 has shown some shocking attitudes towards older people and beliefs about what constitutes abuse, something that should concern us all at a time when ongoing lockdown measures may result in older victims becoming trapped in an environment where tensions are exacerbated and abuse becomes more likely, and where the lack of normal social contact will increase the risk of neglect.
“There are older people living by themselves who are having to self-isolate, resulting in increased loneliness, social isolation and deteriorating mental well-being. These factors significantly increase their chances of being harmed, abused or exploited, in addition to their negative health impacts. We are concerned that older people are finding it difficult to access support, protection and other key services or do not realise that support exists for them.
“The Hourglass Cymru helpline is available to anyone concerned about or affected by the increased risk of abuse and neglect of older people at this challenging time, whether that abuse is perpetrated by loved ones, paid professionals or strangers.”
A spokesperson for Police Forces in Wales said:
“We recognise and understand that during this difficult time, the vulnerable and older people may feel isolated, frightened and out of reach. Our officers have been out in our communities doing their very best to make sure that everyone feels safe.
“Sadly, even in times like these, scammers and other criminals will look to take advantage of our most vulnerable residents.
“Our message is you are not alone. Together we are working with our partners to ensure that provisions and measures are in place to support our whole community.”
Through the extensive networks of its members, the group will be able to reach thousands of contacts in communities throughout Wales, ensuring they have, and can share more widely, the latest information, guidance and resources about keeping older people safe, as well as information about help and support available, which will be crucial as we move forward together during this difficult time.
Older people who need help and support, or those who are concerned that an older person may be at risk can contact Hourglass Cymru (formerly Action on Elder Abuse Cymru) on 0808 808 8141 (for help outside of office hours, people should contact the 24 hour Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800). If there is a risk of imminent serious harm, the police should be contacted without delay by dialling 999. The police are still responding to emergency calls. If someone needs silent help, they should call 999 followed by 55.
1 Group membership comprises the following organisations:
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
All-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
Shared Regulatory Services
South Wales Police
Trading Standards (Wales representative)
Welsh Women’s Aid
2 Polling conducting undertaken by Hourglass in early 2020 revealed that more than 1 in 3 (34%) UK residents don’t believe that ‘acts of domestic violence directed towards an older person’ count as abuse and that nearly half of those surveyed reported that ‘not attending to an older person’s needs in a timely fashion’ doesn’t constitute abuse (49%).