This blog was written by Andrea Cooper, Safeguarding Lead, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
Stopping the abuse of older people is one of my priorities as Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, and I have taken forward a range of work to improve evidence and data about older people’s experiences of abuse and influence policy and practice, both locally and nationally.
Another key focus of this work includes raising awareness about potential signs of abuse, and where people can go for help and support, so that everyone can play a part in recognising where abuse is occurring, raising concerns and ensuring people experiencing abuse get the help and support they need.
The research I have undertaken into older people’s experiences of abuse has highlighted that individuals working and volunteering within our communities have a particular role to play in this as they are more likely to have regular/ongoing contact with older people and build relationships with them, which can help in terms of recognising changes in behaviour that could indicate that abuse is happening and/or encouraging individuals to disclose they are experiencing abuse.
Awareness has grown in recent years about the particular ways that abuse may affect older people, and the particular difficulties and barriers they may face that may prevent them from seeking or accessing support, but it is crucial that we build on this so that abuse and its impact are more widely recognised and there is a better understanding of the help and support available.
I welcome that the need for greater awareness of the scale and impact of abuse, and the importance of training and learning opportunities, are recognised within the updated Welsh Government VAWDASV Strategy, which now also includes a specific strand focused on older people.
The launch of the Welsh Government’s National Plan to Prevent the Abuse of Older People – the first of its kind in the UK – will also mean there is a greater focus on abuse across a range of public bodies and organisations in Wales, which will help to grow knowledge and understanding.
I will also continue to play my part as Older People’s Commissioner, through sharing my research findings with stakeholders throughout Wales and the UK, distributing my Get Help, Stay Safe leaflet – which provides information about spotting the signs of abuse – and my Abuse Support Services Directory, which enables older people and stakeholders in Wales to find information and contact details about support available in their area, as well as national organisations.
By working together to raise awareness and call for change with a powerful, united voice, we can help to ensure that everyone experiencing or at risk of abuse, regardless of their age, can access the help and support they need so they are safe and protected.