The chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board, Valerie Watts, says the harm caused by elder abuse can be devastating and urged everyone in society to be vigilant for signs of when it may be taking place.
Demonstrating the Health and Social Care Board’s support for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the one-time Derry City Council chief executive signed the International Declaration on Elder Abuse.
Elder abuse is a universal problem. Research suggests that 2 per cent of the population over 65 years of age experience some form of abuse every year. Last year in Northern Ireland, 2769 older people were referred to adult safeguarding services because there was a concern that they had been subjected to some form of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
“I am very proud that the Health and Social Care Board is helping to raise awareness of elder abuse in this way. The harm caused by abuse can be devastating and life-long for many victims. It is important that we raise concerns about the risks to older people who suffer from neglect or are victims of financial, emotional, physical or sexual abuse. We all have a responsibility to watch for signs of abuse and report it to the relevant organisations.
“The Declaration commits the Board to a zero tolerance approach to the abuse of older people and that is very much the foundation of our approach to all adult safeguarding activities”.
Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I welcome the Health and Social Care Board’s commitment to a zero tolerance approach to abuse of older people in our society. It is incumbent on all of us to support initiatives such as this that aim to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society and I would encourage people to report any form of abuse on members of our elderly community to the appropriate authorities.”
The Board takes the lead in safeguarding adults in Northern Ireland through the Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding Partnership (NIASP). NIASP is a multi-agency partnership that brings together representatives from organisations and communities of interest who have a significant contribution to make to safeguarding vulnerable adults.
NIASP is responsible for the implementation of the Adult Safeguarding Policy which provides a framework within which social and health care providers, PSNI officers and those involved in the community can work to prevent harm to adults at risk and respond to it when it happens.
Veronica Gray, Director of Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland said “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is about all of us working together
to bring about greater recognition of the abuse of older people. We welcome the commitment from the Health and Social Care Board, and believe that by signing the Declaration there is further demonstration of their commitment to zero tolerance of the abuse of older people. We will continue to actively support the work of NIASP in moving forward with the prevention and recognition of elder abuse in Northern Ireland. Through this partnership we aim to end this abuse of our older people”.