Older People: Abuse

– in the House of Lords at 2:59 pm on 19th June 2007.

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Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench 2:59 pm, 19th June 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they propose to take following the publication of the report UK Study of Abuse and Neglect of Older People 2007.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (NHS Reform)

My Lords, the report was commissioned and co-funded by Comic Relief and the Department of Health. We will introduce a new monitoring system to report the extent of abuse. We will also review the No Secrets guidance on developing and implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse.

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the Minister and congratulate him on the Government's part-sponsorship of this vital research. In demonstrating the prevalence of abuse and neglect of vulnerable elderly people, this is a great service to the majority of old people. Does the noble Lord agree that, following a clear indication that at least 4 per cent of people are abused or neglected in their own homes—not in institutions, care homes or hospitals, and not people suffering from any form of dementia—the actual prevalence is probably quite a bit higher, at least 6 per cent? The law must be reviewed urgently so that vulnerable adults have the same level of protection as abused children, such as the right of immediate access on suspicion of abuse. Older people must know about and have access to adult protection services, which is not happening at the moment. We still need to train staff much more in dealing with vulnerable older people. I look forward to meeting the Minister's colleague in the other place to discuss that issue next week.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (NHS Reform)

My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that the legislation will be studied as part of the work that we take forward. I agree with her about making older people aware of the adult protection arrangements in each local authority area. As we take the work forward, we will encourage local authorities to do more to make sure that their services are accessible to older people.

Photo of Lord Walton of Detchant Lord Walton of Detchant Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister agree that, despite my noble friend Lady Greengross's comments about this very valuable and notable report, there is clear evidence that some of those abused are in fact demented patients? Is it not therefore a major scar on the reputation of this country that individuals—elderly, defenceless and vulnerable—are being abused in this way?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (NHS Reform)

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. I also accept that the statistics in the report do not cover people with severe dementia or those in care homes. The report gives a snapshot of individuals living in their private homes or sheltered accommodation.

There can be no room for complacency. It is clear from the scale of the problem identified that this must be a major challenge for society; that is why we will look at the legislation and review the statutory guidance to local government. There is certainly no complacency on the Government's part.

Photo of Baroness Neuberger Baroness Neuberger Spokesperson in the Lords, Health

My Lords, given the lack of clarity about whether financial abuse counts as harm—some local authorities do not count it as such—can the Minister assure us that guidance will be sent to local authorities making it clear that the financial abuse of older people is indeed harm and should be treated as such?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (NHS Reform)

My Lords, we will make sure that that will be considered in the review of the No Secrets guidance. The statistics in this report show that financial abuse was reported in 0.7 per cent of respondents; it is a serious matter.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, in view of the fact that a home is always considered a very private place, how does the Minister propose to monitor this abuse, which is clearly going on in private homes?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (NHS Reform)

My Lords, the work just published is the result of a survey of more than 2,000 people. The Government's intention is to establish a national monitoring system which will collate the reports made to local authorities under the local adult protection arrangements. It was also reported that 70 per cent of the older people concerned were able to report their concerns either to the authorities or a friend. That is encouraging, but we want to make sure that all older people subject to abuse are able to report it and that action will be taken where appropriate.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the sad conclusions of this report indicate that we must increase the value we place on family carers in particular, and the support we give them? Are the Government prepared to look at the volume of support for respite care, for example?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (NHS Reform)

My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord about the importance of carers. He will probably be aware that a strategic review on carers is being undertaken. We hope that it will be published in due course. There is no question that the support that can be given to carers will be a very important part of it.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

My Lords, will the Minister look carefully at the training, supervision and continual professional development of those who go into people's homes? Does he recognise that, where there is a high turnover of such people because of a lack of training and support, that also is abusive?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (NHS Reform)

Yes, my Lords, that is an important point, but the statistics in the survey show that 51 per cent of reported cases of abuse involve the spouse or the partner, 49 per cent involve another family member and 13 per cent the care worker. Although I certainly accept that there is work to be done with care workers, it is clear that much of it needs to involve programmes of education and support for the family members of people affected by abuse.

Photo of Baroness Howarth of Breckland Baroness Howarth of Breckland Crossbench

My Lords, the Minister has been referring to older people, but what does he intend to do for younger disabled people, particularly those with communication difficulties, who are unlikely to be able to make themselves understood and their abuse heard?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (NHS Reform)

My Lords, the principles behind tackling abuse of older people clearly apply to all parts of society, as much to vulnerable young people as to adults. The processes encompassed in No Secrets, while designed for adults, must apply to children as well.