Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett speaking at yesterday’s panel discussion to observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. (C.Pitt/BGIS)
While Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett, believes a legislative framework is necessary to alleviate elder abuse, he says there must also be a change in society’s behaviour on the issue.
Speaking at a panel discussion held to observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, celebrated each year on June 15, Mr. Blackett acknowledged that interventions to deal with elder abuse had been constrained by the absence of a legislative framework, which would provide workers with the autonomy to intervene in cases in the interest of the vulnerable elderly.
Making reference to the message delivered by United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in 2015, Mr. Blackett stated: “Legislation and enforcement must be accompanied by behavioural change at every level…as elder abuse often occurs in quiet, private settings, and the abuse and maltreatment of older persons is often ignored by mainstream society.”
Validating his point, he explained that when family members referred elder abuse cases to the necessary authorities, they often indicated that beyond the referral they did not want to be involved in the matter, as they feared victimisation by the perpetrator.
The Social Care Minister cautioned that these social environmental factors helped to create a setting which was conducive to elder abuse, and undermined the social protection of the elderly. “The elderly are not treated with dignity and respect; they have weak social linkages, are socially excluded and isolated, and made to feel that they are not valued or accepted…very often this occurs in the context of diminished familial and community support systems,” he stated.
He revealed that several cases reviewed by the National Assistance Board indicated that family dynamics was often a significant contributing factor to elder abuse. Mr. Blackett also spoke against the background of the recently-publicised cases of elder abuse, explaining that the collaborative efforts of the stakeholders highlighted the need for an “integrated approach” to the prevention, reporting, investigation and management of elder abuse.
Clarifying its importance, he said the approach would “necessitate the intervention of various agencies and professionals, including social services practitioners, medical professionals, primary health care workers and law enforcement working in conjunction with individuals, families and communities”.