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Another hidden face of domestic abuse

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Age UK, report, domestic abuse, elderly people, report, No Age Limit, Domestic Abuse Bill, Queen's SpeechA way must be found to collect essential data from people aged 75 and over.

Age UK is calling on the government to ensure the voices of older people are heard, their rights are protected and their needs included in domestic abuse legislation that it must bring forward at the earliest opportunity.

Age UK has published a new report, The Hidden Face of Domestic Abuse, which highlights the fact that domestic abuse can happen at any age, including extreme old age.

It also includes disturbing new figures about the extent of domestic violence among older people:

In 2017 over 200,000 people aged 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales;

One in four (23 per cent) victims of domestic homicides was over the age of 60;

About 139,500 older women and 74,300 older men who experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2017 and of these, two in three victims were female (67 per cent) and four in five perpetrators were male (81 per cent); and

Older people were almost equally likely to be killed by a partner/spouse (46 per cent) as they were by their (adult) children or grandchildren (44 per cent).

While evidence suggests older women experience domestic abuse at similar rates to younger women, no data is collected about domestic abuse survivors past the age of 74, which means the true prevalence of domestic abuse amongst our older population is unknown. It is therefore not surprising that older people are also mostly absent from specialist support services.

The Domestic Abuse Bill received its second reading in Parliament on 2 October.

Age UK has said that any legislation must go further than simply looking at domestic abuse through a criminal justice lens.

And any new law should also recognise and support the role of health bodies in tackling domestic abuse and in helping victims and survivors to escape abusive relationships.

It is also essential, Age UK said, that the law recognises that older people are affected by domestic abuse just as much as anyone else and that the Bill includes provisions to ensure survivors get the help they need.

Age UK is calling for a new and more ambitious piece of draft legislation to be brought forward and that the views and needs of older people inform it and are listened to as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

To do this, the Bill must reflect the following recommendations:

The definition of domestic abuse must include abuse perpetrated by those who are in trusted positions and provide unpaid care, including friends and neighbours, as well as family members;

There is also a role for the Care Quality Commission, the care regulator, in ensuring there are sufficient safeguards in place to prevent abuse by a paid professional providing care;

There should be domestic abuse training for health care practitioners that covers the issues for older people, particularly for those clinicians concerned with hospital admissions and discharges because this is when an older person’s experience of abuse may first come to light;

Data on domestic abuse must be gathered for people of all ages – the cut off at age 75 for gathering these statistics must end; and

Better links between the NHS and police are needed to ensure older victims of abuse are identified, protected and supported.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “There’s a widespread misconception that domestic abuse only happens to younger people, but sadly hundreds of thousands of older people are affected too.

“It’s high time that this was fully recognised by the law, policy and practice so that the needs of older survivors can be identified and properly met.

“Together with many other organisations, including the Women’s Aid Federation, we are calling on the government to present a bold and ambitious Domestic Abuse Bill in [the] Queen’s Speech.

“At Age UK we want this Bill to include provisions to bring older domestic abuse survivors in from the cold, and that means in particular recognising the important roles that health professionals can play in spotting when domestic abuse is going on and in supporting older survivors to get the help they need.

“It may well be that the first time domestic abuse comes to light is when an older person is admitted to hospital, or discharged back home, so it’s the professionals working with older people in these contexts who need some specific training the most.

“The fact that no data is collected about domestic abuse survivors past the age of 74 has helped to keep the problem of domestic abuse in later life well and truly hidden, hindering efforts to get support to older people who desperately need it.

“This age limit is ageist, and a way must be found to collect this essential data from people aged 75 and over.”

“It is essential that we raise awareness and recognition of the abuse experienced by older people and ensure they know that organisations like Women’s Aid and Age UK are here to help, at any time in their life.

“With our population ageing we need urgent action and the Queen’s speech is an excellent opportunity to show the hundreds of thousands of older people living with domestic abuse that they are not forgotten and that we can and will take action to help them.”

Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive of Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, said: “Domestic abuse can happen to women at any time in life. Time and again signs are not picked up by professionals. This can have devastating consequences.

“This is why we support Age UK’s calls for the Domestic Abuse Bill to collect data on all ages and for better training for health and social care services. It’s vital that all our public services are able to ask and take action about domestic abuse.”

To read the full report ‘No age limit: older people and domestic abuse’ click here.

If you need help:

Age UK’s free to call Advice Line number is 0800 678 1602: open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year

For women and children who are experiencing or who have experienced domestic abuse, the National Domestic Violence Helpline, also free to call, is: 0808 2000 247: open 24 hours, 7 days a week.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger: call the police on 999.

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