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Elder Abuse

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What is Elder Abuse?

Elder Abuse is one of the three threads under Safeguarding. However, Adult at Risk and elder abuse are managed jointly under legislation and the Wales Safeguarding Procedures.

Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.

World Health Organisation

Elder Abuse falls within the Safeguarding arena with all types of abuse being possible. Exploitation including cuckooing can be part of this (see criminal exploitation). According to the National Care Helpline over half a million older people experience elder abuse in the UK, often by people they trust as friends or relavites, with women over 70 who are dependent, frail and alone seen as particularly vulnerable to this form of abuse. They go on to say that at the heart of it is an expectation of trust built up with an older person that is subsequently violated.

Whilst all forms of abuse can occur to those who are older, the UK Government has specifically identified five specific forms of abuse:

    • Neglect: not caring for someone properly
    • Manipulated Theft: pressuring someone to give away money or property, including the changing of Wills
    • Psychological: threats, harassment, can include forcing someone to live where they don’t want to
    • Physical: violence
    • Sexual.

Hourglass (formerly Action on Elder Abuse) identifies that “abuse is any action that violates a person’s human or civil rights. It can take many forms and involve a number of factors”. They list the types of abuse as financial, sexual, psychological, physical, domestic abuse and neglect. A number of these can be linked to other topics that are covered on this website.

Abuse can occur as a spontaneous act, where the perpetrator takes advantage of a situation, or as a premeditated and calculated act. At base, these forms of abuse stem from the real or perceived vulnerability of older people.” Hourglass

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has stopping abuse of older people as one of the main priorities, including having set up an Abuse Action Group.

  • Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 provides duties and legislative background to the provision of care and support, as well as to responding to safeguarding concerns and the need to report any signs of abuse to safeguarding teams. Part 7 is particularly important as it sets out statutory guidance that must be complied with.
  • Wales Safeguarding Procedures provide clarification and are accessible for delivering the safeguarding responsibilities and responding to the guidance.
  • Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 includes the 7 wellbeing goals for a resilient Wales, a more equal Wales, a Healthier Wales and a Wales of Cohesive Communities. These are to be delivered through the 5 ways of working: collaboration, prevention, involvement, integration and long-term.


Other relevant legislation:

  • Social Care Wales


  • Safe Lives

Responding to older people affected by domestic abuse training

  • Local Authority Social Services training units will have information of local training (see Directory)
  • Age UK

Safeguarding older people in Wales from abuse and neglect factsheet

  • Hearing Aid Podcasts

Episode 3.04 Older adult abuse and safeguarding

  • SafeLives

Staying Safe At Home – domestic abuse the impact on older people

  • Action on Elder Abuse (Hourglass)

YouTube Don’t let it happen 2 you

  • Hertfordshire County Council

YouTube Could you spot the signs of elder abuse?

Help and Support

For victims, families and concerned people

It can be difficult to reach out for support if the abuse is by someone who is a close friend or relative, but abuse and neglect are never acceptable and there is help available to help stop it. If the abuse is being carried out by someone who provides care and support, reporting will not stop you receiving services. Your care and support needs will continue to be met as part of any safeguarding response.

Report to safeguarding in your local authority (see Directory). Report it to the Police by calling 101, or report it online depending on your region of Wales – South Wales Police, Dyfed Powys Police, Gwent Police or North Wales Police. In an emergency, call 999. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, use the Police textphone service 18000 or text on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergency SMS service.

Hourglass have a helpline – 0808 808 8141 – specifically to offer support and advice on elder abuse, or they can be emailed at (the telephone number will not appear on any telephone bill). The Age UK Advice Line 0800 678 1174 is available if you are concerned about abuse.

Hourglass have a list of things to think about on their website if an older person feels they might be at risk of abuse.