In 2015 the Centre for the Study of Ageing, Abuse and Neglect within Aberystwyth Law School was awarded a Big Lottery grant to carry out a research project looking into different aspects of ageing, family relationships, elder abuse and justice.
Pictured L to R are Professor John Williams, Senior Research Fellow Sarah Wydall and Professor Alan Clarke, complete with cake, at the Cardiff launch meeting, January 2017.
Choice grew out of a number of research projects the Centre carried out looking into different aspects of elder abuse.
Please see the ‘Research Centre’ pages of this website for more details.
The three and a half-year long Choice project runs from 2015 to 2018. The project is working in partnership with national charities such as Age Cymru, Hafan Cymru, Red Cross and Welsh Women’s Aid. The project also had considerable support from local authorities and the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
Domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 and over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.
The abuse can encompass but is not limited to abuse which is:
- Caused by neglect
Domestic abuse where the person experiencing the abuse is aged 60 years or more, is happening to thousands of older people in Wales every day, with more than 39,000 older people in Wales per year – a proportionately higher figure than the rest of the UK – estimated to be victims of abuse (Prevalence Study, Department of Health & Comic Relief, 2007).
The Welsh Government collects data from each of the 22 Welsh Local Authorities, relating to cases referred to them and recorded using their ‘Protection of Vulnerable Adults’ paperwork.
They publish an annual report summarising these findings, which can be found on the Welsh Government website, in the Research and Statistics section. Please follow the link below:
The Annual Report for the year 2015-16 showed:
- The most common victims of alleged abuse continue to be women aged 65 and over, who made up 43% (1,950) of all completed referrals.
- Neglect (36%) and physical abuse (32%) were the most common types of abuse.
- 65% (2,925 cases) of completed referrals were for people aged 65 and over.
- Of the 2,925 cases, 67% were women (1,950) and 33% were men (975)
- 39% of people who alleged abuse were abused in their own home
- 23% of those alleged responsible for abuse were relatives
- The alleged abuse was more likely to occur in the person’s own home in the community (39%) or in a care home (residential and nursing home) (34%)
Within the UK there has been considerable media coverage of elder abuse in hospitals, care homes and other institutional settings. However, as the statistics show, older people are also abused in their own homes and many feel unable to stop it happening - often because they do not know where to find the help and support they need and want. Previous research has found that many victims of elder abuse fail to get justice and that criminal prosecutions and actions under the civil law are rare.
Abusers may be family members, people who are supposed to provide care, or so called ‘friends’. The impact of abuse on the older person is often significant leading to social isolation, poor nutrition, fuel poverty and debt. Recent research by Safe Lives shows that on average, older people experience domestic abuse for twice as long before seeking help as those aged under sixty.
Choice is working in partnership with national charities such as Age Cymru, Hafan Cymru, Red Cross, Action on Elder Abuse Cymru, Safer Wales and Welsh Women’s Aid. The project also has considerable support from local authorities, the police and the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
Although in some cases prosecution may be the right thing to do, often older people do not want to criminalise a family member as they feel this may worsen the situation.
For example, an older person who is financially abused by a child or grandchild, may not want to see them prosecuted as this could impose a strain on the family and potentially lead to a breakdown within the family and the older person being deprived of wider family support.
What Choice offers:
- Choice worked together with older people, volunteers, local communities and professionals in two pilot areas (Carmarthenshire and Cardiff) to design an additional approach to justice based on restorative principles.
- As a result we are able to offer a Wellbeing Service, and this new approach forms one of three options introduced to the client by the Choice Support Worker. Clients who take up the offer of the Wellbeing Service work with the Choice Practitioner.
- Older people are involved from the beginning in all discussions and decisions as to the best course of action and are empowered as a result of this involvement.
- Qualified and trained project staff liaise with the older person and other family members to agree how best to resolve their situation.
- The Choice Support Worker and Choice Practitioner can work with the older person and their family for up to 12-months
Sarah Wydall, Senior Research Fellow, at Aberystwyth University said;
“This project addresses a failure of existing procedures to provide victims of elder abuse with a sense of justice and reassurance that the abuse will not continue. It is highly innovative in its approach, particularly the involvement of victims and the integration of research and practice. Although based in Wales, the findings of the project will have international significance.”
The reason Choice is needed
Professor John Williams, of Aberystwyth Law School has said;
“Our earlier research shows that victims of elder abuse want two things.
- First, they want the abuse to end.
- Second, they want justice.
What justice means is often unclear.
It does not necessarily mean criminal proceedings. Other justice options are needed which ensure that the abuse ends and provides the older person with a sense that justice has been done.”
- Many older people who experience abuse within their own homes are often unaware of how to find out what help and support is available to them.
- Many do not want to involve the police or pursue someone through a civil court case – so no other solution is available to them and their case is not taken up by anyone.
- This type of elder abuse is very complex, often involving a family member as the perpetrator, where the older person may be reluctant to try and do anything to stop the abuse because that would impose a strain on the wider family, possibly create a family breakdown and deprive them of family support.
Therefore, new options and solutions are needed, which reflect the needs of the individual being abused and are more tailored to the local services available in their area.