Elderly Care Bill Gets All-Party Backing

The care of older people has been in focus across both the UK and in Ireland this week - with dramatically different outcomes in the two states.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has secured cross-party support for a Bill designed to protect elderly people and vulnerable adults who are at risk - while in the Irish Republic the official Ombudsman has said that older people have been "systematically denied their rights for over 25 years" because of a lack of State-funded nursing home beds.

Emily O'Reilly lashed the Dáil's Department of Health and Health Service Executive (HSE) for fighting long, drawn-out lawsuits against older people who believed they were wrongly charged for nursing home care.

She said that more than 1,200 vulnerable elder people complained to the Ombudsman's office, which in turn accused the Government and health chiefs of having an unacceptable disregard for the law.

In counterpoint, at Westminster, a resolution to formally draft a Bill received unanimous support in the House of Commons this week promote awareness of abuse of elderly people and adults at risk and promote training on how to recognise and respond to such abuse amongst those who are likely to encounter abuse in the course of their work.

It also aims to promote greater awareness and understanding of the rights of victims of abuse amongst agencies with responsibilities for providing, arranging, commissioning, monitoring and inspecting care services promote the development of local strategies for preventing abuse of elderly people and adults at risk and for ensuring that victims are assisted in recovering from the effects of abuse.

Speaking after receiving unanimous support in the House of Commons today, the DUP Deputy Leader said: "I was delighted to have the opportunity to introduce this motion and present my Bill today. I am especially encouraged by the fact that the legislation received cross-party support. The issue of abuse of elderly people and adults at risk is very much a hidden problem.

"I hope that by raising this issue, I will help to focus attention on a matter which affects hundreds of thousands of people every year and which a range of organisations including AgeUk, the Alzheimer's Society and many others have already done so much to highlight," he said, noting that issues of abuse are of course complex and much abuse goes unreported.

"The failure by abused elderly people and adults generally to report instances of abuse is due to a number of reasons.

"The complexity of the problem is illustrated by the result of a piece of work carried out in Northern Ireland which showed that three-quarters of incidents where elderly adults were subjected to abuse involved a family member, including very close relatives.

"Often the abused person in this kind of situation will still want to maintain some kind of relationship with the abuser or may be threatened that if they report the abuse they will be denied access to other family members, reinforcing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

"This problem has been ignored for far too long and I hope that my legislation will go some way to alleviating the suffering of many innocent vulnerable people," said the DUP MP.

By contrast, in Dublin, the Irish Ombudsman has more or less 'gone to war' with the HSE, the Department of Health and the Government over the treatment of senior citizens and their entitlements to nursing home care under the 1970 Health Act.

Following an investigation marked by "an unprecedented level of rancour and disagreement" she claims there is a disregard for the law within the department and the HSE and found the relationship between the Executive and parliament to be "dysfunctional".


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