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Commissioner renews appeal for law to protect older people from abuse

03 June, 2015

The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Claire Keatinge, has renewed her call to the Minister of Health, Social Services to commit to introducing legislation that would better protect older people in Northern Ireland from abuse.

Speaking on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which seeks to promote awareness of the issue and urge governments to create policy and legislation to protect older people, the Commissioner said:

"Abuse of older people happens across our society wherever they may live, and causes fear, anxiety and distress for those at risk and those who have experienced it.

"The incidence of allegations of abuse against older people is growing in Northern Ireland, with an increase of 90% in the number of allegations of abuse recorded over the past four years. Many people will be shocked to hear that older people in Northern Ireland do not have the same level of protection in law as those in England, Scotland and Wales.

"Last year I advised the Minister of Health on the need to introduce a law to protect older people from abuse. This has been fully endorsed by the NI Assembly which shows wide political support for the introduction of legislation, and so I am reiterating my call for urgent action on this.

"Older people in Northern Ireland deserve to have confidence that if they experience abuse, or are at risk of abuse, that the law can adequately protect them, and punish those who carry out abuse. They don't have time to wait; older people are being abused today, and the longer new legislation is delayed, older people remain at risk of abuse.

"I am reiterating my call to the Minister and the department to act without delay to introduce legislation to better protect older people from abuse, balanced with an assurance that the rights of the older person are not infringed."

Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding Partnership (NIASP) has noted the following number of referrals of alleged abuse of older people in Northern Ireland: 1715 referrals in 2011-12, 3256 referrals in 2014-15.