OPAN and Elder Abuse
Through the work of the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) in the areas of aged care advocacy, information and education, there are opportunities for OPAN organisations to address issues of elder abuse and provide additional support for people facing this problem. Elder Abuse is unfortunately a reality for many vulnerable people. Although most elder abuse happens in families and other relationships of trust, elder abuse also occurs at times in care facilities.
OPAN aims to provide an immediate response to elder abuse within aged care (community and residential) and to prospective users of aged care services. Although traditionally OPAN organisations have not been funded for specific elder abuse work outside of this, in recognition of the wider work they have done, the Minister for Aged Care has provided OPAN with $1 million to support elder abuse prevention activities.
In 2017- 2018 this grant has been used to support new and existing OPAN elder abuse projects, with the aim of formulating a national focus on elder abuse prevention activities. Initiatives already undertaken include an independent review of OPAN’s elder abuse advocacy and prevention programs.
The funding is also supporting the existing elder abuse service run by OPAN’s South Australian member organisation Aged Rights Advocacy Service (ARAS). This service has been recognised as delivering the best and most mature elder abuse prevention and advocacy service in Australia. In 2017 – 2018 OPAN is testing this service model at a national level with the other OPAN member organisations.
An investment in building capacity in the areas of supported decision making and understanding and responding to elder abuse in rural and remote areas is also being supported through new projects. These identified needs have been recognised as significant national issues in the recent Australian Law Reform Commission report https://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/elder-abuse- report. The projects aim to address these issues to reduce their impact on Australia’s vulnerable elderly.
OPAN is committed to continue to work on elder abuse prevention activities now that the Minister for Aged Care has provided further funding to support OPAN in addressing this national crisis.
One of the OPAN service delivery organisations, Senior Rights Service released The Abuse of Older People: A Community Response Final Report on 29 May 2018. This widely endorsed report sets out an agenda that the community sector has articulated as a set of priorities that need to be embraced by policy-makers and governments to effectively reduce the risk of elder abuse in Australian society whilst also supporting those affected. The strategy day which led to the production of this report was sponsored by OPAN and the Attorney-General’s Department.