Abuse measures for elderly proposed
The elderly need the same legal protection from abuse as children, an MP has said.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) told the Commons new legislation would ensure the authorities were better able to deal with all types of sustained abuse against pensioners and vulnerable adults.
One in 25 elderly people are exploited, often by relatives or supposed friends in their own homes, while an increasing number are being targeted for their money as a result of the recession.
But the problem affected a "hidden minority", with few cases reported to police and social workers because victims relied on their tormentors for support. A recent survey found 62% of victims had no contact with social services.
Mr Dodds said current legislation was too complex and widespread and could not be realistically understood by public sector workers.
The MP said his Support and Protection for Elderly People and Adults at Risk of Abuse Bill was the "over-arching and comprehensive" legislation that was "vital" to "reinforce" existing policies.
It would ensure victims' information was easily shared between the authorities and frontline staff would be better trained to spot the signs of abuse. Mr Dodds added: "Often there appears to be little formal contact between agencies and services and support can be uncoordinated and fragmented.
"We can compare that to the situation regarding the protection of children and that is a benchmark we should seek to emulate. There's too much buck-passing when it comes to vulnerable adults or senior citizens.
"In my view only legislation would end it. Legislation would require suspected abuse to be investigated. Guidance is all well and good but it applies differently to the various authorities and statutory agencies." He added: "The day we set aside or neglect our responsibility to help and care for the needs of our senior citizens and those who are open to abuse in our society, is the day we lose our moral compass."
The Bill gained an unopposed first reading but without Government support stands little chance of becoming law.