The incidence of elder abuse and its direct impacts upon a growing cohort of the community requires urgent attention.
The prevalence of elder abuse is increasingly recognised as occurring in the community and in various institutional settings such as hospitals, retirement villages and aged care facilities, and the scale of abuse and neglect is highlighted by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Its interim report has provided a scathing summary of the current systems, concluding there is a prevalence of substandard care, significant breaches of human rights, fear of retribution if one makes a complaint, fundamental lack of transparency, and severe underfunding.
Queensland Law Society has proposed reforms to combat elder abuse and on other critical issues raised in its Call to Parties statement for the 2020 state election. The consultation draft seeks commitments to:
- Urgently implement key recommendations set out in the report by the Australian Law Reform Commission, ‘Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response’, including the National Plan to Combat Elder Abuse. This must be guided by timely stakeholder consultation, including with older persons themselves, with a whole-of-government strategy focusing on prevention, education and awareness raising, collaborative frameworks, and financial elder abuse interventions, responses and redress, including addressing barriers to accessing justice (both formal and informal). Collaboration with National Cabinet in relation to ageism, discrimination, agency of older people and building an evidence base are necessary to achieving a cohesive strategy and national consistency on these issues.
- Develop capacity assessment guidelines resulting from a multi-disciplinary approach combining input from legal practitioners, consumers, medical and health professionals, drawing upon the model utilised in the United States and developed by the American Bar Association and the American Psychological Association’s ‘Assessment of Capacity in Older Persons’.
- Recognise and act on the extensive evidence and research which indicates the need to take immediate action with respect to the abuses, harm and neglect occurring in residential aged care facilities, including the proper regulation, mandatory reporting and adequate training for staff, with a view to minimising and substantially reducing the use of restrictive practices in this sector, including provision of increased funding to established groups and regulatory authorities such as the Australian Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission at the federal level, and the Office of the Public Guardian (Qld).
- Increase funding to community legal centres delivering services to people suffering elder abuse across varied areas, particularly regional, rural and remote.
- Increase funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal centres and community controlled services so that culturally appropriate services are available to First Nations older persons experiencing elder abuse.
- Make a reference to the Queensland Law Reform Commission to determine the most appropriate and effective legal (including legislative) response (criminal, civil or equitable, including restitution) to incidents of elder abuse.
Members are invited to review the Call to Parties statement here. The Queensland state election is due to be held on 31 October.