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Helpline provides lifeline for elderly suffering abuse

Lesley Carcary, director of Action on Elder Abuse Scotland, with councillors Neale Hanvey, Fay Sinclair and Brian Goodall, and MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville
Lesley Carcary, director of Action on Elder Abuse Scotland, with councillors Neale Hanvey, Fay Sinclair and Brian Goodall, and MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville

Scotland’s first helpline for elderly victims of abuse has been launched in Fife.

Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) Scotland hopes the service will reach the thousands of older people across the country suffering as a result of self harm or abuse, which could be psychological, physical or financial.

At the launch in North Queensferry, AEA Scotland director Lesley Carcary revealed some chilling statistics.

Nearly half of calls to the charity’s UK helpline related to financial abuse, and 63% of the alleged abusers were relatives.

And an estimated 4.3% of older people in Scotland — around the population of Coatbridge — are at risk of harm.

“We know that’s only the tip of the iceberg,” said Ms Carcary.

“A lot of older people don’t want to speak up about it. It’s a problem which happens behind closed doors.”

The Elder Abuse Response Helpline (Scotland) can be contacted by either older people suffering or worried about abuse, or by friends and relatives concerned about someone else.

Brian Rapley, AEA Scotland services coordinator, said in his role as an advocacy worker he had encountered horrific cases of mistreatment.

One elderly lady was living in fear of her son, who threatened her and did not bother to change her incontinence pads.

Another, who was left penniless after giving her pension to family members, was found lying naked in her hall by a heating engineer.

“It’s shocking but these are real life examples,” said Mr Rapley.

While some callers may be referred to other agencies, the helpline is also there for those who just need to talk to someone.

Mr Rapley added: “It’s about listening to people and they can take as long as they need to speak to us.

“It’s also about passing people on to more specialist support.”

During the launch, the wider problem of social isolation among older people, which makes them more vulnerable, was highlighted.

To tackle the problem, the charity hopes to pilot a peer support project in Fife. Having been run in London, it could now be rolled out throughout Scotland if successful.

Local MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “There are more vulnerable people within our society and more people living quite isolated lives with few support networks around them.

“This is why something like this helpline can play such an important role.

“We have to get past that embarrassment of getting involved and challenge what is going on. This helpline gives people who fear that someone else is getting abused an avenue to get involved.”

The Elder Abuse Response Helpline (Scotland) can be contacted on 080 8808 8141.

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