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Morag Kinniburgh reports
"Many elderly Scots are too scared to complain"
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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 20:03 GMT
'Many OAPs are being abused'
Nursing home
A charity says many elderly people suffer in silence
A new report which suggests 10% of Scotland's old people are victims of abuse has prompted opposition parties to call for changes in the law.

Age Concern Scotland has issued research which revealed thousands of elderly people are subjected to psychological, financial, physical, neglect or sexual abuse.

The charity believes most of the abuse takes place in pensioners' own homes and that the research has only touched the tip of the iceberg.

It has called for proper vetting procedures for people who work with the elderly, and new chairman Lord McCluskey said there may be a need to tighten areas of the law.

Many older people don't think that they are being abused, even when they are unhappy about how they are being mistreated

Ann Ferguson
Age Concern
Scots law already allows cases of physical, sexual or financial abuse to be brought to court, but many OAPs are reluctant to report an abuser.

The Scottish National Party said the Scottish Executive should examine whether current laws offer the elderly sufficient protection.

Age Concern Scotland said more research was needed to understand the problem and its extent.

However, existing research indicates 66% of the perpetrators are male - some as old as 90 - and it is mainly women who are abused.

The charity, which has launched a three-year campaign to raise awareness of the problem, also claimed nearly 40% of victims suffer from more than one form of abuse.

'People should be shocked'

Director Maureen O'Neill said it was important that society recognised and took responsibility for the problem.

"I think people do need to feel shocked about it," she said.

"They do need to be aware that elderly abuse exists in Scotland, and they must recognise that we need to do something about it."

Old man sitting at fire
Much of the abuse takes place in OAPs own homes
Age Concern's Ann Ferguson has worked in the field of elder abuse for the last five years.

She said: "Many older people don't think that they are being abused, even when they are unhappy about how they are being mistreated.

"Many have grown up with the attitude that you just have to put up with it and do not realise that they can do anything about it.

"Add to this a lack of training and education within many of Scotland's care agencies on the indicators of elder abuse, and it stacks up as a precarious position for any vulnerable adult to be in."

It has been found 47% of victims were abused in their own homes, but the charity fears the true extent of the problem in residential care is hidden.


Statistics gathered from 1,421 telephone calls to a helpline between 1997 and 1999 showed that 71% of those who are abused are women.

Almost equal numbers of male and female family members were reported as abusing older people - but the greatest number of calls said care workers were the abuser.

There was also some evidence that some care workers are "service-hopping" to deliberately abuse OAPs and there are fears some victims have died as a result of abuse.

Scottish Tory health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said the figures would appal people.

Elderly man in wheelchair
Age Concern Scotland wants to see more research
She said: "The executive must ensure that older people are afforded adequate protection from abuse in all its forms.

"As a first step, a single regulatory framework should be established for all care homes whether they be in the private, voluntary or public sector."

An executive spokesman said it was concerned at the allegations of abuse.

He said: "We are introducing a whole range of rigid measures and the Regulation of Care Bill will see the setting-up of independent commission to inspect and regulate care homes across the country."

A month-long radio and bus advertising campaign to highlight abuse was launched by the charity in all the major cities of Scotland.

This scheme is part of the charity's three-year project to promote access to a free and confidential helpline, providing training to spot abuse and conducting in-depth research.

The helpline number is 0808 808 8141.

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