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New elder abuse service opens on the Central Coast

12 Feb 2020

Older people on the Central Coast have a new service to protect them from physical, psychological, financial and legal exploitation.

The Central Coast Elder Abuse Service launching today – the first day of Seniors’ Week – and is the first such specialist service ever run by Legal Aid NSW.

The team is headed by senior solicitor Mary Lovelock, who says that it addresses an area of great need on the Central Coast.

“Elder abuse is defined as a single act, or series of acts, occurring within a relationship of trust that causes an older person harm or distress,” she said.

“We chose to base ourselves on the Central Coast because it’s a region where there is a high number of older people, where there are high levels of disadvantage, and it is home to large population of older Aboriginal people.”

Elder abuse can include a wide range of issues including physical harm, bullying, sexual abuse, financial issues and neglect . The issues are often complex because they can occur within families and other relationships of trust.

The service offers a holistic, culturally sensitive approach with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff trained in social work and law.

Based in the Gosford office of Legal Aid NSW, the service works with stakeholders to provide targeted assistance to older people identified as experiencing, or at risk of abuse.

“Many of our clients experience elder abuse and, due to health and mobility issues, may not have a way to connect to our services. Our partners who work with these clients play a big role in connecting older people to us,” Ms Lovelock said.

The service will work with eligible clients who ask for help directly, but will also receive referrals from a range of stakeholders including health services, mental health services, Centrelink, aged care providers and the NSW Trustee and Guardian.

“There has been a national spotlight on elder abuse stemming from a number of reviews and enquiries,” Ms Lovelock said.

“One of the responses has been the establishment of a number of services to strengthen our ability to identify and respond to elder abuse.”

The Central Coast Elder Abuse Service is a three-year pilot funded by the Commonwealth Government.

The service is available for older people living on the Central Coast who are aged 65 or older, or 50 and older if they are Aboriginal.

The service can be contacted on: 02 4324 5611.

Background case studies from an initial trial period:

  • When Betty fell and broke her hip, her daughter asked her to come and live with her. Betty sold her house and used $150K to build a granny flat at the back of her daughter’s house. Betty’s daughter said she was happy that she could help look after Betty and interact with her three grandchildren. Soon after Betty moved into her granny flat, her health deteriorated and her daughter and son in law started arguing about the extra care she required. Betty felt lonely and uncomfortable. The relationship with her daughter got worse and one day she came home to be told that the house had to sold and she needed to get out. Betty had nowhere to go. Betty’s community nurse referred her to our service. Our lawyers were able to recover the money that Betty put into building the granny flat as well as a bit extra and also advise her about Centrelink issues. Our social worker supported Betty to locate suitable supported care accommodation.
  • Joan was admitted to hospital with malnutrition. While in hospital she spoke to staff about being scared to go home. Her adult son had moved in with her after his marriage broke down. He had alcohol and mental health issues. Joan had asked him to leave but he refused. When she was at home, she spent most of the time in the bedroom to keep out of his way. The staff at the hospital referred Joan to our service. We gave notice to the son that he had to leave. We arranged with hospital staff for Joan to stay in hospital until her son left the property. Our social worker spoke with Joan about safety and supported her to reconnect with her social group. Joan was able to return to her house after her son left.
  • Len was referred to us through a local financial counsellor. Len had some problems with his mobility and had become house bound. Len’s carer had access to his bank cards and had been withdrawing funds from Len’s account without his permission. The financial counsellor estimated that 60K has been taken from Len’s accounts over a three-year period. We negotiated with the carer to sign an agreement to repay the debt. Len didn’t want us to report the matter to the police as long as he got the money back. Our social worker organised a new carer for Len and we worked with the financial counsellor to have regular audits of Len’s finances to keep him on track.

MEDIA CONTACT: William Verity (02) 9219 5669 or 0436 610 649