Isolation during the coronavirus pandemic will act as a “pressure cooker” making abuse of the elderly and vulnerable more likely, a charity is warning.
Abuse and neglect is expected to rise as the nation practises social distancing and the most vulnerable stay indoors for months, the safer ageing charity Hourglass said.
It believes older people will be at risk because they will be without the safeguards offered by regular day-to-day contact with the outside world.
Any lockdown measures will exacerbate tensions and societal unease and become a recipe for disaster, making abuse more likely but “harder to spot”, it warns.
Recent polling of almost 2,500 people in the UK for the charity paints a “disturbing” picture of attitudes towards the elderly.
A survey carried out for the charity reveals more than a third (34%) of respondents do not believe acts of domestic violence towards an older person count as abuse.
In London, this rose to 44%.
And almost half (49%) of respondents felt that “not attending to an older person’s needs in a timely fashion” did not constitute abuse.
Richard Robinson, Hourglass chief executive, said: “What we have here is a recipe for disaster. Even under the best of circumstances, we know that more than a million older people experience abuse or neglect in the UK every year.
“The findings from our polling indicate that even before coronavirus was a factor – the research was conducted in January and February of this year – a shockingly large proportion of people have a disturbing tolerance for abusive behaviours towards older people.
“We also know that assaults and domestic murders surge by as much as 25% during the festive season – a time when the combination of financial strain and family members cooped up in close proximity exerts additional burden on relationships.
“The lockdown measures – necessary as they are for tackling coronavirus – will create a pressure cooker environment for abuse, with vulnerable older people at particular risk.”
The charity is calling on the Government to provide emergency funding so charities can continue supporting those who need them over the coming months.