Under the current lockdown measures, many of the usual opportunities to identify domestic abuse such as contact with professionals at routine appointments have been lost, meaning older people could be missing out on potentially life-saving help and support.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Monmouthshire County Council’s safeguarding teams and support services are still up and running, investigating concerns and ensuring that people get the help they need so they are safe.

A campaign led by a newly-formed action group set up by the Older People’s Commissioner, which includes Gwent Police, Age Cymru and the Welsh Government, is highlighting the work being done stop the abuse of older people. It is urging the public to report any concerns they may have if they fear an older person may be at risk of, or is experiencing, abuse.

While contact with other people is limited at this time, there are still signs to look out for that could indicate someone is experiencing abuse. These include physical signs, such as unexplained bruising or other injuries, or behavioural changes, such as becoming withdrawn, not being allowed to leave the house (even for daily exercise), reduced contact (including by phone or email) with family or friends, or changes in the way someone uses social media.

Anyone who has concerns about an older person should contact Monmouthshire County Council’s social services safeguarding team on 01873 735492 or their local police on 101 (in an emergency call 999).

“We all have a role to play in protecting older people. Looking out for the signs of abuse and reporting any concerns we have could literally be life-saving. I would urge anyone who has any concerns that an older person they know may be at risk of experiencing abuse to contact their council’s safeguarding team or the police,” said Councillor Sara Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Justice.

The action group is also encouraging professionals who may come into contact with older people through their work to complete a new online domestic abuse training course that has been developed by Aberystwyth University’s Dewis Choice Projecthttps://choice.aber.ac.uk/.

The training covers a range of areas, including the ways older people may experience domestic abuse, the barriers that may prevent people seeking help, the impact of abuse on people’s mental health and well-being, and the sources of help and support available. The training also includes a safety planning toolkit which has been developed based on the real experiences of over 100 victim-survivors that engaged with the Dewis Choice Initiative. 

Sarah Wydall, who leads the Dewis Choice Initiative said:

“Since isolation began, we have seen a rise in the number of practitioners contacting us for advice, particularly for guidance around safety planning in these new circumstances. We know from our experience that isolation can increase the severity of abuse and limit people’s opportunities for seeking help and support. By offering this online training and copies of our practitioner guidance, we are able to equip frontline staff with the resources to provide the best possible response to older victim-survivors of domestic abuse.”

Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said: “I would also urge key workers throughout Wales who are coming into contact with older people to complete the Dewis Choice training, as this will give them the knowledge and information they need about how to identify abuse and where they can go to get an older person vital help and support during this difficult time.”E

For more information about the work of the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, visit www.olderpeoplewales.com