The charity dedicated to fighting the widespread abuse of older people, Action on Elder Abuse, says a new £2 million National Lottery grant to expand its work will help rescue thousands more older people from the scourge of hidden abuse by carers or relatives. The grant ensures we can now help protect the UK’s oldest, and often the most vulnerable, members of the community.
The grant from the Big Lottery Fund, which distributes 40% of funds raised for good causes by the National Lottery, is the largest the charity has ever received from a single source. It comes as a very welcome 21st birthday present, as Action on Elder Abuse (or AEA) embarks on a major expansion plan to heighten public awareness of the scale of the problem, with an estimated half million cases of abuse of older people in the UK every year, and evidence from the charity’s own casework that vulnerable older people have been swindled out of at least £25 million by carers or relatives in the past year alone.
The award will allow the charity to expand its work across all parts of the UK, achieving a much higher profile so that abused older people, or those who are concerned about them, know where they can turn for help. The money, spread over five years, will pay for a major increase in the staffing of AEA’s Freephone Helpline, and dramatically increase the charity’s ability to provide practical support for many more older victims of abuse.
Gary FitzGerald, Chief Executive of Action on Elder Abuse, has warmly welcomed what he called “this superb award” by the Big Lottery Fund. He commented: “For years the abuse of older people has been covered up, ignored and marginalised, with greater protection often given to our pets than to older relatives or friends. The charity has been campaigning for more than two decades to fight this abuse, with only limited resources to tackle a problem that is a major blight on our society. The Big Lottery Fund has now changed this landscape. It’s very good news for those older victims who still have no voice, and who often suffer in silence … what we have called The Silent Scream.”
John Beer, who chairs Action on Elder Abuse, said, “The abuse of older people cannot continue to be ignored. It is a cancer at the heart of our communities and we have to deal with it now, or face untold suffering in the future with an ageing population. With this money from the Big Lottery Fund we can continue and expand the work that we have wanted and needed to do for a very long time, with more frail and vulnerable people living into their 80’s, 90’s and beyond. Abuse hurts whether you are 8 years of age or 78 years of age, and our response should be unequivocal in both cases.
There is no excuse for abuse. There are no hiding places for abusers. With the support of the Big Lottery and our other financial donors, we will make that message a reality.”
Action on Elder Abuse has the only national Freephone Helpline dedicated to stopping the abuse of older people. Callers can ring from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm, on 080 8808 8141 for confidential support and information. Since 2011, the number of calls to the Helpline has tripled, and is expected to reach 20,000 calls per year by 2015, all related to the various forms of elder abuse.
Research suggests that more than half a million older people are abused in the UK each year, often by people they know and trust. Some 60% are over 80 years old, with more than 15% over 90. Nearly 1 in 4 victims lives with his or her abuser, and 1 in 3 relies on the abuser at least in part to provide care.
The Big Lottery Fund award will allow the charity to expand its work substantially, funding a new post of Communications and Press Officer, new Helpline staff to meet increasing demands, a new Peer Support service for victims, and new development posts for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.