Greysafe calls for urgent national summit to develop elder abuse action plan

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Media Release: September 26, 2017

An advocacy group for older Australians has urged the Federal Government to call a national summit on elder abuse without delay as fears rise among advocates that a reform blueprint presented to the Attorney-General  three months ago by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) will be put in the ‘too hard’ basket.

Greysafe, a not for profit organisation that works to prevent the abuse, neglect and exploitation of older Australians, will write to the Attorney-General George Brandis urging him to bring together relevant State and Federal Ministers, legal and financial experts as well as advocates representing impacted families to develop an action plan and timeline for implementing a range of urgently needed reforms.

“The ALRC presented 43 recommendations to Senator Brandis in time for World Elder Abuse Day on June 15. Now it is time to get on with implementation and action. We don’t want to be still waiting in June 2018 for an action plan to be developed and implemented,” Greysafe CEO Michael Riley said.

“The summit should be called without delay as stories and examples of our vulnerable elderly being abused continue to come through each day.

As a precursor to the summit, Greysafe has developed key recommendations to form an agenda for discussion on the day including:

  • The need to toughen laws to protect older Australians suspected to be at risk of or the recipient of elder abuse. This includes making elder abuse a criminal offence.
  • The establishment of a National Elder Abuse Taskforce made up of prominent legal, finance, medical and social welfare experts and charged with the responsibility of overseeing new national standards and laws to help identify and stamp out elder abuse in the home and in aged care.
  • The need for an urgent and definitive study to take place to determine the actual number of Australians being subjected to elder abuse and those at risk of elder abuse. At present, we have no idea of the exact number of older Australians being subjected to elder abuse.
  • The creation of an ongoing national public awareness campaign, funded by government, on recognising the signs of elder abuse and how to help those at risk.
  • The establishment of a twice yearly forum where elder abuse victims, families and advocates are brought together with legislators and National Elder Abuse Task Force  members to check progress of initiatives and discuss practical solutions to eradicate elder abuse.
  • The implementation of two ‘End the Social Isolation’ trial programs in each state of Australia. One trial to take place in the city and one in a rural/regional area. Social isolation and exclusion is a factor in elder abuse. To be able to begin to address elder abuse in the home, where possible, we need to encourage victims to get out of the house and away from perpetrators and towards individuals and organisations that can help. The pilot program would see GPs, lawyers, financial advisers, counsellors and service clubs come together and meet with potential victims and socially isolated older Australians on a regular basis at a venue provided by local councils.
  • The establishment of ongoing professional development, training and educational seminars to highlight the signs of elder abuse. These education modules would become mandatory and be undertaken by bank staff, medical professionals and other organisations that have regular interactions with vulnerable older Australians.
  • The development of education programs in schools around the theme of ‘Respect, Care and Connection with the Elderly’.
  • Engage Australia’s community service clubs such as Lions, Rotary, Probus and Neighbourhood Watch to work with the National Elder Abuse Taskforce to help lead the community change required to identify and stamp out elder abuse. Service clubs have the connections and volunteers available to be able to help lead the ‘End the Social Isolation’ and ‘Respect and Reconnect with the Elderly’ projects through their interaction with older Australians in their local communities.

“We need to be clear that this summit is about coming up with meaningful and tangible actions. It should not be another talkfest where delegates leave the summit only having talked about the problems. We know the problems, we now need an action plan and timelines put in place to come up with solutions,” Mr Riley said.

“The summit should be attended by all heads of Australian Governments, elder abuse legal and financial experts, regulators, impacted family representatives, community service group leaders and key industry leaders.

“Greysafe believes the community has to help lead the efforts to weed out elder abuse perpetrators from out of the shadows and for our part, we’re developing our own community awareness initiative, Grey Armband Day, to help raise awareness of and uncover the hidden epidemic of elder abuse.”