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DH and Comic Relief investigate elder abuse

Ivan Lewis, Minister for Care Services, today announced three new measures to strengthen the protection of vulnerable older people in the care system.

The plans will help to ensure that older people are treated with dignity and respect in all care settings.

Amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill – currently going through parliament – will be proposed to make care homes providing publicly-arranged accommodation directly subject to duties under the Human Rights Act, reversing the effect of a recent court decision.

Action will be taken to ensure that people funding their own care will, for the first time, have the right to refer complaints to an independent adjudicator. Details will be confirmed later this year.

Two million pounds will be made available for a new joint research initiative between Comic Relief and the Department of Health investigating the dignity and safety of older people being cared for in institutional settings.

Health and Social Care Minister Ivan Lewis said: “Everyone who has an elderly parent or grand parent will want to know we are doing everything in our power to protect vulnerable older people from ill treatment.

“This £2 million study will help to inform our national campaign to put respect for dignity at the heart of all care services for older people.”

Gilly Green, Head of UK Grants, Comic Relief said: “The study is an important piece of research as for the first time on this scale we will seek to include the views of older people who because of their frailty or incapacity are often unheard. Given that people with dementia make up around 60% of the care home population, and are potentially the most at risk of abuse, it’s vital to find ways of hearing their views too”

The study will explore the experience of older people, and the staff who care for them, in institutional settings such as care homes, intermediate care and hospitals. It builds on work by also funded by DH and Comic Relief in 2007, which looked at the prevalence of abuse of older people living in their own homes and is likely to run until April 2011.

There has been considerable publicity over the last few years about high profile cases of abuse, and widespread public perception that neglect is common in institutional care but there is little solid evidence to substantiate this perception.

This study hopes to provide for the first time robust data on the prevalence of abuse and neglect, and the experience of loss of dignity in institutional settings. It will also examine the pressures faced by those caring for older people in these contexts. This information will increase our understanding of its causes, impact and importantly help to develop more effective ways of identifying and preventing the development of abusive relationships

Given the complexity of the study, and the variety of settings, it is planned to commission a number of separate, but linked, studies that will examine the issues from a range of different perspectives and by a variety of means. The final stages of the work will be completed in April 2011.

Department of Health

Comic Relief