Age UK calls on Government to fix Domestic Abuse Bill blind spot

By agency reporter
October 4, 2020

Age UK is once again calling on the Government to do right by older victims of domestic violence by fixing the blind spot in the Domestic Abuse Bill that means crimes against them are currently airbrushed out.

In a new report the Charity says there should be no age limit for collecting data on victims of domestic abuse, and that the ‘blind spot’ of older victims and survivors needs to be rectified in the Domestic Abuse Bill which returns to Parliament this month. Specifically, Age UK wants a guarantee that data will be collected on people aged 75 and over who are victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

The new report, No Age Limit: the blind spot of older victims and survivors in the Domestic Abuse Bill, by Age UK highlights the scale and impact of the domestic abuse faced by older people, as well as the challenges and barriers that prevent victims from accessing the help and support they may need. With many areas across the country facing new lockdown restrictions due to a second wave of COVID-19, the charity says the situation is getting worse.

The pandemic means that some older victims will have faced an impossibly cruel situation in which they were afraid to go out for fear of contracting a life threatening illness, and afraid to stay in for fear of what an abusive spouse, partner, son, daughter or family member might do to them. It’s a scenario which plays out, day after day, and with a second wave of coronavirus very much now a reality this will be a recurring nightmare for them.

A group of organisations including the Older Person’s Commissioner for Wales, and charities such as Women’s Aid, have joined Age UK in calling for better representation of all age groups, including older people, so that support towards recovery and safety can be provided. With no reliable figures for older people who might be experiencing domestic abuse, resources aren’t allocated to help older victims and survivors of abuse. It also means that older victims are not being identified nor being seen by specialist support services. Services are not effectively targeted at older victims, and do not always meet their needs.

A previous report published by Age UK last year called on the Government to ensure that older people’s voices are heard, their rights are protected and their needs included in the Domestic Abuse Bill. A big problem is that the Crime Survey of England and Wales (the survey that gathers data on people’s experiences of crime including those which are not reported to the police), only gathers data on domestic abuse from people up to the age of 74.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Older people are the invisible victims of domestic abuse and this totally unacceptable situation must be urgently resolved. Older people have always been particularly vulnerable to certain forms of abuse, including financial abuse and abuse by a carer. They are likely to be dependent on the person abusing them and very few older domestic abuse victims are accessing professional support. Coronavirus restrictions sadly only exacerbate the situation for many and make it even harder for them to leave or find respite from an abusive situation.

“The fact that we don’t even try to collect the data about anyone aged over 75 who has suffered domestic abuse is shocking and it’s high time that changed. It’s not just an important principle at stake here, there are very real consequences for older survivors too: the absence of any solid information about them means their needs are often overlooked and we perpetuate a culture in which they find it almost impossible to speak out.

“A year on from our first call for the Bill to ensure that data is collected on all victims and survivors of domestic abuse, regardless of age, and we are no better informed on the numbers of older people who are affected. During that time many older people will have been harmed but their experiences will not have been captured by the official data and they will be extremely fortunate if they received any help. This injustice can be overcome through a simple amendment to the Bill or via secondary legislation and we hope very much the Government commits to acting to end this scandal.”

Nicki Norman, acting Chief Executive at Women's Aid, said: “Whilst there is evidence to suggest that older women experience domestic abuse at similar rates to younger women, as Age UK rightly highlights, the Crime Survey England and Wales does not collect data on adults over 74. We know that domestic abuse has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic, and women have told us that the barriers to escaping have been greater. So now, more than ever, we need to increase awareness and recognition of the abuse experienced by older survivors and tackle the barriers they face to accessing life-saving help and support. We want to send a clear message that organisations such as Women’s Aid and Age UK are here to help all women experiencing domestic abuse, at any time in their life, and during the pandemic.”

Jessica Southgate, CEO of Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, said: “Older women are among some of the most marginalised victims of domestic abuse. Too often their voices and experiences go unheard and uncounted.

“We cannot truly address the root causes of domestic abuse without recognising the extent of the problem across all age groups and data is a vital part of that, which is why AgeUK's report is so important.

“We also need to ensure that public services staff encountering older women understand that this group of women can also be victims. They must be trained to spot the signs of abuse and ask the right questions in an appropriate way to ensure those women get the support and protection that they need.”

Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said: “I welcome the publication of Age UK’s report, which highlights the scale and impact of the domestic abuse faced by older people, as well as the challenges and barriers that can prevent people from accessing the support they may need. I particularly welcome the call for action, potentially through legislation, to ensure that the ONS starts collecting and publishing data relating to people of all ages – rather than just data for those up to the age of 74 – as part of the Crime Survey for England and Wales. A lack of robust data means that significant number of older people are in danger of being rendered invisible to policy- and decision-makers. Closing this gap in the data will help to ensure we can get a true picture of the ways that domestic abuse affects older people so that support and resources can be targeted more effectively.”

* Read No Age Limit: The Hidden Face of Domaestic Abuse here

* Age UK https://www.ageuk.org.uk/


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