Government initiative lends its EARS to elders

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

All seniors deserve to be treated with dignity and with care, whatever their background or circumstances.

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

Growing problem

Elder abuse is a serious and growing problem in all our communities throughout New Zealand. Up to 70,000 seniors will experience some form of elder abuse this year – either physical, psychological, sexual, financial or neglect. Sadly, most cases are not reported, as the victims are too ashamed to admit they are being abused.

Given our ageing population, this serious and growing problem requires a different approach and more effective and accessible help and intervention, wherever and whenever victims need it.

From July 1, our new Elder Abuse Response Service (EARS) put the victims of elder abuse first. The cornerstone of EARS is a free and confidential 24/7 help-line, 0800-32 66865 (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 – whether they are the victim or someone who’s concerned it might be happening to a friend or family member.

Geographical spread

There will be a wider geographical spread of service providers to help more at risk elderly people than ever before, with a range of organisations around the country funded to be able to intervene quickly and step in to help victims of elder abuse.

The new service will be able to serve different ethnic groups, with translation services available to the free 24/7 Helpline, and providers selected to ensure services are culturally responsive.

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.

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.

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

For information about your local service provider, please follow the above link.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi has been a Member of Parliament on National List from Manukau East since November 2008. He is the Chairman of the Parliamentary Law & Order Select Committee and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Police Minister.

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