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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Elder abuse 'affecting thousands'
Elderly person being taken a cup of tea
The perpetrator is often someone trusted by the elderly victim
Hundreds of thousands of elderly people are being abused in their own homes, research suggests.

The study, funded by the government and Comic Relief, suggests that in eight out of 10 cases the abuser is someone well known to the elderly person.

It can involve physical abuse or neglect and sometimes financial mistreatment.

Ivan Lewis, the care services minister, said there would soon be new guidelines for official handling of abuse cases.


He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that abusers of older people should be treated in a similar way to child abusers by the courts.

"The findings [of the study] are disturbing. I think there are real cultural issues in our society in the way we treat older people," said Mr Lewis

"What we need to aim for is a society where we are as outraged by the abuse and neglect of an older person as we are by the abuse of a child, and we are a long, long way from it."

A quarter of cases involved money being stolen from the elderly victim, the independent two-year survey of 2,000 people living in their homes has found.

We urgently need to move from a system of voluntary guidance to one with legal protections for vulnerable people
Paul Burstow, Lib Dem MP

The UK Study of Abuse and Neglect report said the survey meant as many as 342,000 older people might have been victims of abuse, ranging from financial fraud to emotional abuse and even assault.

The report also said the research suggested 105,000 people in the UK had suffered 10 or more separate instances of neglect.

A total of 53% of those spoken to who reported abuse had been targeted by people living in the respondent's house at the time.

Of those, 65% of perpetrators were recorded as having committed "interpersonal" abuse, meaning physical, psychological or sexual abuse.

Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow said he would table an Early Day Motion on Thursday calling for the government to introduce specific legal protections for older people.

He said: "We urgently need to move from a system of voluntary guidance to one with legal protections for vulnerable people."

These latest figures paint an alarming picture of the way we treat our nearest and dearest
Jean Gould, Help the Aged

Commission for Social Care Inspections (CSCI) chief inspector Paul Snell said he would be examining the report to work out how older people in their own homes could be encouraged to report abuse.

Help the Aged spokeswoman Jean Gould said the report showed the popular belief that most abuse was committed in care homes by professional staff was wrong.

She said: "Elder abuse has been a hidden taboo for too long. These latest figures paint an alarming picture of the way we treat our nearest and dearest in a supposedly civilised 21st Century society.

"We must also bear in mind that the prevalence study has only dealt with abuse in the context of private homes, not care homes, nursing homes or hospitals, so overall levels of abuse will be higher than this.

'Red tape'

One woman Jenny Purcell, told the BBC she had tried to raise the alarm after seeing an elderly friend suffer abuse.

"We believe he was abused, neglected and financially ripped off by a member of his family," she said.

She said a relative meant to be caring for the man had instead stolen tens of thousands of pounds from him.

She said she contacted doctors and social services after seeing her elderly friend and his home deteriorate.

"We couldn't get through the red tape," she said. "We couldn't get people to listen.

"It's such a hot potato - people don't want to be involved with it."

The man, who was a war veteran, died aged 90.

A friend of an elderly victim on family abuse

Mistreating the elderly
13 Mar 06 |  Breakfast
OAPs write elderly abuse booklet
28 Feb 05 |  Scotland


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