Seniors Rights Victoria was proud to help launch Timboon and District Healthcare Service’s new elder abuse prevention project, Warm Safe Home. The project focuses on one of our most treasured places, our home, in order to raise awareness of elder abuse.
Seniors Rights Victoria were very pleased to be able to help an older person living with elder abuse to get one of the first orders for compensation by VCAT under the Power of Attorney Act VIC 2014 (the Act).
Thoughtfully prepared Powers of Attorney can reduce the risk of elder abuse for people living with dementia.
The idea that from little things, big things grow is the foundation of a ‘conversation- seeding’ program tackling elder abuse. The program is working with older Victorians to help them increase community dialogue about ageing, and how ageism may lead to elder abuse.
une 15 marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), officially recognised by the UN in 2011. Individuals and organisations worldwide will be participating in events and activities that empower, celebrate and inform older people, as a way of preventing mistreatment and harm occurring in their communities.
Seniors Rights Victoria, the Office of the Public Advocate and community service providers all supported NARI to achieve this project.
“The key strength of this piece of work is that it sought to combine the insights of frontline practitioners with information about new policy contexts, existing services and cutting-edge trial projects, to come up with this plan,” Ms Pearce said at the launch.
NARI Director and co-author of the plan Associate Professor Briony Dow said elder abuse was a serious problem in Victoria, but like many issues affecting older people was often treated as a second-class problem.
“NARI research has shown that tackling elder abuse is difficult not least because older people do not want to talk about their experiences…..Many older people we have spoken to feel deep shame and fear further abuse,” Ms Dow said.
The research identified 10 priorities in the state-wide action plan to address elder abuse:
CWA Social Issues Committee Chairperson Viviane Chemali (pictured) has been promoting the availability of Seniors Rights Victoria speakers to CWA branches throughout Victoria.
About 30 women attended a presentation given by Seniors Rights Victoria Community Education Co-ordinator Gary Ferguson and volunteer speaker Jennifer Evans at the first of these talks held at Umina, the CWA State Headquarters last month.
During the presentation, speakers cover elder abuse, risks, prevention, moving in with family and Enduring Powers of Attorney and Medical Decision Making.
There were several questions during the presentation and some women cited examples of elder abuse of which they were aware.
Injustice of any kind rankles, but for me there is something particularly galling about attitudes that reduce diverse demographics to their vulnerabilities; something abhorrent in the sense of entitlement that leads to early inheritance syndrome, and the greed that overrides trust and family ties.
The casework team at SRV sees the human face of this social problem up close and personal, every day. One thing I’ll say is that it’s rarely dull. On any given day at the Seniors Rights Victoria frontline you can find yourself at a nursing home or at the Magistrates Court; you could be breaking a client back into their home (with the help of a locksmith), or going to any lengths to keep a perpetrator out. We spend a lot of time on the phone with older people from diverse backgrounds, with a rich repository of stories and experiences to share. There has been POW survivors, eminent Order of Australia medallists, refugees from the Vietnam War and people who have simply worked steadily all their lives and were perhaps too-trusting a mother or father. They tell us their stories with a mix of resilience, humour, heartbreak, perspective and fiery determination.
To my mind, there is nothing more motivating than working to redress a fundamental wrong against someone who wouldn’t have the means to pursue it otherwise. I don’t think I can ever go back to billing clients after this year, and I would really prefer not to have to give legal advice without the accompanying support of a social worker, like we do here at Seniors Rights Victoria. Lawyers and social workers together make a much more formidable team. Going forward, I just hope that the value of the service that Seniors Rights Victoria provides is met with the funding it needs. Because until that happy day when all our prevention measures and messaging take complete community hold, I can only see that we will need to keep expanding our specialist services.
Seniors Rights Victoria has been participating in high level committees and working groups as a result of the State Government’s continued focus on family violence reform, the publicity on family violence and elder abuse, the State Government’s Elder Abuse Prevention Advisory Group and the Federal Government setting objectives to tackle elder abuse. We keenly took part despite only being a small service provider. To assist us to participate in the work on family violence, the Victorian Government supported us with a grant for a part-time policy position, and funds to enable our Advocacy Coordinator to contribute our expertise in meetings and consultations. We also continued to participate in the workforce development for the Department of Health and Human Services Integrated Model of Care in partnership with St Vincent’s Health Melbourne and the Bouverie Centre. This helps keep older people in the big picture.
The Federal Government’s commitment to tackling elder abuse was demonstrated through referrals to the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) into elder abuse. We contributed two submissions to the ALRC inquiry, which were quoted extensively in the final report. This greater recognition of elder abuse led to more interest from other agencies and a greater demand on our services. Our Helpline calls increased by 25 per cent and our advices grew by 42 per cent during the past year. We received more requests than the previous years to work with organisations as expert informants through consultation, meetings, partnerships and the delivery of education.
Seniors Rights Victoria provided significant support to more than 50 events across the state who participated in World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in June, including a partnership event at Melbourne Town Hall co-hosted with the Office of the Public Advocate. We welcomed the Federal Government release of the ALRC’s report Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response. We also continued our community education program to professionals, educators and the broader community, including people from culturally and linguistically diverse groups and Aboriginal communities.
We were saddened by the loss of the former Victorian Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Fiona Richardson MP who passed away this year. Fiona will be remembered as a trailblazer driven by a fierce determination for change and a fearless advocate for family violence, particularly the inclusion of the abuse of older people in this context.
Our staff have been fantastic in their sense of purpose and engagement in influencing policy developments and achieving action to address elder abuse. The quality of their work is exceptional and is a source of pride. Throughout the year the Seniors Rights Victoria Advisory Committee has provided useful input on the strategic issues arising out of the developments and demands.
I thank the advisory committee, staff, peer educators for their contributions and particularly the older people who shared their stories of abuse and their efforts to achieve change. Looking forward to 2018, Seniors Rights Victoria will celebrate 10 years of our achievements. We look forward to sharing our knowledge gained from working on the front line with older people, their families and service providers so we can strengthen our partnerships and increase community understanding and responses to stop elder abuse – Jenny Blakey, Seniors Rights Victoria.
In 2016–17, the helpline service received 3379 calls (2696 previous year), of which 3285 were related to elder abuse or associated issues.
Women made up more than 75 per cent of all callers. However, we recognise that elder abuse can affect all older persons and cater our services accordingly.
The most prevalent issues raised were financial abuse at 25 per cent (28 per cent last year) and emotional/psychological abuse at 24 per cent (29 per cent last year), followed by adult children returning home at 10 per cent (6 per cent last year), physical abuse at 9 per cent (5 per cent last year), and neglect at 8 per cent (6 per cent last year). Very often a client experienced more than one type of abuse.
A significant number of our callers were from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, with 234 advices made to clients whose birth country was not Australia, representing 35 different countries of origin.