The Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) and Local Adult Safeguarding Partnership (LASP) member organisations are among the first in Northern Ireland to sign an International Declaration on 15 June 2015 to mark World Elder Abuse Day.
The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) Declaration sets out the Trust’s concern about the risk to older people who suffer from neglect or are victims of financial, emotional or physical abuse. The declaration calls on all communities to watch for signs of abuse and encourages every citizen to commit to building a safer community for older citizens.
The INPEA was established in 1997 and aims to increase society’s ability, through international collaboration, to recognize and respond to the mistreatment of older people in whatever setting it occurs, so that the latter years of life will be free from abuse, neglect and exploitation.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day involves activities to bring greater recognition of mistreatment of older people wherever they live throughout the world, and to highlight the need for appropriate action.
The Western LASP is keen to raise awareness of the abusive situations faced by all vulnerable adults including older people, people with mental health issues, learning disability, physical disabilities and those with addictions. Research suggests that 2% of the population of people over 65 years of age experience some form of abuse every year.
Between April 2014 and March 2015, 705 adult safeguarding referrals were received by the Western Trust. The number of incidents reported to the Trust continues to rise. Of those reported, 204 referrals were made to Social Services following allegations or suspicions that an older person was experiencing some form of abuse.
Kieran Downey, Director of Women and Children’s Services, Western Health and Social Care Trust said: “Abuse in any form is totally unacceptable. It goes without saying that all of us would expect to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of social circumstances or the state of our health. However, some adults are being mistreated - often at the hands of people they trust and the Western Trust urge people, should that be that members of the public or health and social care staff, to report incidents of abuse or neglect.”
Abuse can be physical/sexual (e.g. hitting or inappropriate behaviour), emotional, verbal (e.g. name calling) or financial (e.g. taking money or property). Neglect can also be part of abuse. Neglect involves not doing something, such as not providing the adult with food, shelter, medication, or care.
Abuse of older adults most often occurs within the family, by a spouse, children, and/or grandchildren. However, abusers can also include friends, neighbours, paid care providers, landlords and staff, or any individual in a position of power, trust, or authority.
The INPEA Declaration will also be signed by Belfast District Council as the first Council in Northern Ireland to commit to encouraging everyone to commit to building a safer community for our older citizens.
If you are the victim of abuse, or if you are worried about someone who you think may have experienced or is being abused, exploited or neglected, then it is really important to seek help. The Western Local Adult Safeguarding Partnership would encourage anyone with concerns about an adult who may be at risk to inform your nearest social services office or PSNI station. If you ever feel in immediate danger or think someone else may be in immediate danger, Dial 999.
The Western Trust Adult Safeguarding Service can be contacted at (028) 71611366 or (028) 82835980 for advise, guidance and support.