New initiatives to address abuse of the elderly

Maggie Barry

Wellington, June 30, 2017

A new elder abuse intervention service starts tomorrow (July 1) to keep older New Zealanders safe.

Elder abuse is a scourge on our society and it’s time for all of us to make it clear, it’s not OK. All seniors deserve to be treated with respect, with dignity and with care, whatever their cultural background or circumstances.

The serious and growing problem of elder abuse requires a different approach and recent high-profile examples of abuse in the media reinforce the need to change the way we intervene and provide practical services to keep seniors safe from elder abuse.

Victims and perpetrators

Ena Lai Dung weighed just 29 kgs and had 15 broken bones when ambulance officers found her body. Her daughter went to prison for 13 years for manslaughter.

World War Two veteran Ron Greenhalgh died last year without enough money to pay for his funeral because it was squandered at the TAB by his daughter Carolyn Alleyne. Branded “cold, callous, heartless and cruel” by her brother, Alleyne was sentenced this week to 10 months home detention.”

From tomorrow, new Elder Abuse Response Service (EARS) will put the victims of elder abuse first and focus on practical outcomes.

The cornerstone of EARS is a free and confidential 24/7 help-line, 0800 32 668 65 (0800 EA NOT OK). Registered nurses will be on the other end of the phone to listen and advise anyone who needs information or support about elder abuse.

Increased funding

We have increased funding for these services and have negotiated new contracts with organisations that have been selected specifically based on their ability to deliver an effective intervention service for our vulnerable older people.

In addition to longstanding providers like Age Concern receiving a funding increase, 18 new organisations will be involved, including 10 Age Concern branches being funded for the first time.

There will be a wider geographical spread of service providers to help more at risk elderly people than ever before.

From tomorrow. nationwide education, prevention and awareness work will be run through the Office for Seniors freeing up frontline providers to actively help older people facing different abuse situations.

Translation Service

With translation services available to the free 24/7helpline, and providers selected to ensure services are culturally responsive, the new service will be able to serve different ethnic groups, including Maori, Pasifika, Indian, Chinese and Korean communities.

SuperSeniors Champions are adding their voices to help spread the word and encourage people to speak out and ask for advice and help about elder abuse.

They are a group of influential, articulate advocates for positive ageing. These non-political honorary role models, led by Patron Sir Peter Snell, have made a series of videos which will be on the website www.superseniors.msd.govt.nz,”

Our seniors should be able to trust their families and those close to them but the sad reality is that 79% of older New Zealanders who’re abused are harmed by family members and 43% of victims live with their abusers.

Up to 70,000 seniors will experience some form of elder abuse this year – either physical, psychological, sexual, financial or neglectful – and we have to do more to intervene and protect them.

The message is clear – elder abuse is not OK. If you see abuse, speak out against it

For further information, please visit www.superseniors.msd.govt.nz

Maggie Barry is New Zealand’s Minister for Seniors.

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