Elder abuse set to increase as UK enforces coronavirus lockdown measures, charity warns

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Strict lockdown measures during the coronavirus pandemic will create a “pressure cooker” environment for the abuse of older people, a UK charity has warned.

Hourglass, formerly known as Action on Elder Abuse, said the abuse and neglect of older people is expected to rise as the nation follows social distancing and self-isolation guidance, and household tensions rise.

The news comes after Boris Johnson outlined new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus last night, including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.

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A recent survey of almost 2,500 people in the UK for the charity paints a “disturbing” picture of attitudes towards the elderly.

The poll reveals more than a third (34%) of respondents do not believe acts of domestic violence towards an older person count as abuse.

And almost half (49%) of respondents felt that “not attending to an older person’s needs in a timely fashion” did not constitute abuse.

Richard Robinson, Hourglass chief executive, said: “What we have here is a recipe for disaster. Even under the best of circumstances, we know that more than a million older people experience abuse or neglect in the UK every year.

“The findings from our polling indicate that even before coronavirus was a factor – the research was conducted in January and February of this year – a shockingly large proportion of people have a disturbing tolerance for abusive behaviours towards older people.

“We also know that assaults and domestic murders surge by as much as 25% during the festive season – a time when the combination of financial strain and family members cooped up in close proximity exerts additional burden on relationships.

“The lockdown measures – necessary as they are for tackling coronavirus – will create a pressure cooker environment for abuse, with vulnerable older people at particular risk.”

The charity is calling on the Government to provide emergency funding so charities can continue supporting those who need them over the coming months.

Last month, a report by the Care Quality Commission revealed that nearly 900 cases of sexual abuse or other sexual incidents allegedly took place in England’s adult social care services over a period of just three months.

The regulator identified and analysed 661 statutory notifications from care providers that described 899 sexual incidents between March 1 and May 31, 2018.

Reacting to the report at the time, Veronica Gray, deputy chief executive at Hourglass, said: “We at Action on Elder Abuse [since renamed Hourglass] commend the CQC for investing the time and resources in looking at these hidden issues, and we wholeheartedly support their call to end the closed culture in adult social services around sex and sexuality.

“The reality is that sexual incidents are happening on a daily basis within adult social care, so it’s critical that this issue – so often hidden from view – is brought out into the open.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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