1 December 2021
Alarming new research by Hourglass reveals that the abuse of older people comes last in line for government and the public alike
To coincide with Safer Ageing Week Hourglass, the UK’s only charity focused on tackling the abuse and neglect of older people, has examined the profile and priority given to the issue by government and the public over the last year. Stark findings highlight how those in power, responsible for safeguarding, have given no mention of abuse towards older people across the past year, even after living through a pandemic and the public are unaware of levels of abuse in the UK. The charity found:
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel and the two ministers responsible for safeguarding didn’t mention the abuse of older people once in any of their official ministerial speeches, papers or on Twitter
The Prime Minister, Downing Street, the Home Office and the Department of Justice didn’t mention the abuse of older people once on Twitter
Hansard recorded mentions of the abuse of older people 35 times in Parliament compared to 3603 mentions for domestic abuse, 746 mentions for child abuse and 915 mentions for fox hunting
The abuse of older people was mentioned just 9 times in debates in all Parliaments and all those mentions were in the House of Lords or the Scottish Parliament. There wasn’t a single mention in the House of Commons by Ministers or MPs
The abuse of older people was mentioned 4,500 times on Twitter compared to over half a million mentions for domestic abuse
People tweeted about animal abuse nearly 6 times as much as they tweeted about the abuse of older people
Grouse shooting was mentioned on Twitter nearly four times as often, fox hunting nearly 20 times as often and parking nearly 30 times as often
The public woefully underestimates the number of older people who experience abuse – not one person surveyed thought the number of victims reaches over 2.5m every year. Nearly a fifth thought there were only 10% (250,000) of the actual number of older people experiencing abuse each year
Only 7% of the public think of older adults (65+) when they think of victims of abuse. 20% of people think of animals
The research, compiled in a report called “Last in Line”, is stark in its findings and shows just how little profile and priority the issue has in government and for the public. It also established that there currently isn’t a single source of statutory funding with ring-fenced resources to tackle the abuse of older people. Hourglass noted no funding has been allocated to this issue specifically since 2016.
Commenting about the research, Hourglass CEO Richard Robinson said:
“It’s shameful that an issue that affects a million older people a year is given so little attention by ministers, politicians and the general public. Rightly, other forms of abuse like child abuse and domestic violence have a high profile but it is unbelievable that a niche issue like grouse shooting gets so much more attention than the abuse of older people.”
“We urgently need to push the issue forward from last in line and sound the alarm for the impact it is having on older people and those who care for them. Even since the pandemic, major public and government funding have forgotten the 2.7 million older victims of abuse and neglect every year in the UK.
“We want to join forces with our peers in the abuse sector, be given the same significance and urgency and end time on all forms of abuse and neglect. Without dedicated resources, we are only going to see the problem worsen and end up with many more older people experiencing or being at risk of abuse.”
Responding the research, Baroness Greengross said:
“Hourglass’ research is a glaring reminder that action to tackle the abuse of older people in the UK is long overdue. This is an issue that is neglected and under discussed and therefore falls last in line for society. We need our government to lead the way, working with charities such as Hourglass to shine a light on abuse and neglect, supporting them to support victims and educating people on how to be aware of it.
“Everyone is going to be old one day, the abuse of older people needs to become a top priority to reduce harm to us all.”
Hourglass commissioned the research to highlight just how low a priority tackling this form of abuse is during Safer Ageing Week. It is calling for:
A national campaign to raise public awareness of the issue and increase the public’s support for tackling it
The creation of a Safer Ageing fund to tackle abuse and support safer ageing for older people across the UK this could include specific funding from bodies like comic relief, national lottery etc.
Abuse and neglect of older people to be given equal significance within the sector
During Safer Ageing Week the charity is also launching a chatbot so concerned people can receive virtual help, a knowledge bank and three new community based Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs) in Sussex.