A national approach to combating elder abuse

UnitingCare Australia has voiced its support for a national approach to combating elder abuse following the release of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) elder-abuse report.

The Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response report was published last Thursday on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and outlined 43 recommendations to safeguard older people from abuse.

The 428 page report comes after a 15-month inquiry where the ALRC consulted with 117 stakeholders and received more than 450 submissions.

The capstone recommendation of the report was the adoption of a national plan to tackle elder abuse.

The report also called for the creation of a serious incident response scheme that requires aged care providers to report allegations of physical, sexual, and financial elder abuse to an independent oversight body.

UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little believes a national policy framework that harmonises regulations across states and territories will help address elder abuse.

“All UnitingCare services, the Uniting Church and its agencies, regard elder-abuse as a serious and repugnant crime,” she said.

“We believe that a national plan can set a clear and strong path towards combating elder abuse.

“We are committed to doing all in our power to prevent the abuse of older people in our care, to respond swiftly and appropriately when elder-abuse does occur, and to raise awareness of the issue and associated risks within the broader community,”

Some of the recommendations outlined in the report include enhanced employment screening of aged care workers and training bank-staff to recognise signs of financial abuse.

Ms Little said the scope of the proposed national plan should extend beyond legal reforms. She hopes strategies such as national awareness campaigns and elder abuse hotlines will become priorities.

“It is very important to join the service sector with the shared responsibility of all individuals in the community to act to prevent elder abuse,” she said.

“It is also vital to ensure that the critical role of aged-care workers and carers in the community is appropriately valued within the consideration of the report recommendations.”

Ms Little said the national plan must also work to address harmful attitudes towards older people. The UnitingCare aged care network supports the promotion of respectful intergenerational relationships as a way to tackle ageism.

“There is a significant intersection concerning ageism and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes or misconceptions about older people,” she said.

“We also express particular concern in relation to older people with disability.”

There is currently little information about the overall number and severity of elder-abuse in Australia. The ALRC report recommended the commission of a national prevalence study of elder abuse to better inform policy responses.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the Turnbull government would consider the 43 recommendations outlined in the report and work across portfolios to develop a response.



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