Recommendation 12–1 The Department of Human Services (Cth) should develop an elder abuse strategy.
12.4 The majority of older Australian residents receive regular income through the Age Pension. The National Commission of Audit reported that, in 2012, approximately 80% of all Australians over Age Pension age received income through government pensions. It estimated that the proportion of eligible people receiving income through the Age Pension will remain steady over the next 30 years.
12.5 The Department of Human Services (Cth) designs, develops, delivers, and monitors social security. Centrelink is the body that delivers social security payments, including the Age Pension. Given that it is such a contact point with older Australians, Centrelink is in a frontline position to contribute to combating elder abuse. Moreover, as the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service NSW said, ‘Centrelink is a non-threatening, universal ‘soft-entry’ point for older people to access supports’.
12.6 The ALRC recommends that the Department of Human Services (Cth) develop a discrete elder abuse strategy, to assist Centrelink staff to be alert to the possibility of elder abuse, and to develop appropriate responses when dealing with older people. Stakeholders responding to the Discussion Paper were broadly supportive of the development of an elder abuse strategy, while acknowledging the resource implications of such a strategy.
12.7 Centrelink’s Family and Domestic Violence Strategy 2016–19 provides a useful model. It focuses on providing information about family and domestic violence, identifying those at risk of family and domestic violence, providing referrals and support, training staff in relation to family and domestic violence, and embedding responses to violence across systems and processes.
12.8 While older people may be subjected to family violence, and there are points of intersection between family violence and elder abuse, Centrelink’s Family and Domestic Violence Strategy 2016–19 may not facilitate the development of specific policies to prevent, identify and respond to the abuse of older persons. The Welfare Rights Centre (WRC) observed, for example, that despite the reference to carers of older persons, the strategy document ‘fails to directly mention or refer to elder abuse’. The National Welfare Rights Network suggested that a more ‘comprehensive explanation of elder abuse is warranted’ in the Guide to Social Security Law.
12.9 A discrete strategy should increase the attention given to the circumstances that can lead to the abuse of older persons and facilitate improved responses. The elder abuse strategy would complement and sit within the proposed National Plan, discussed in Chapter 3. Implementation of the recommendations and suggestions that follow could be specific actions forming part of a broader elder abuse strategy. The role of an elder abuse strategy in responding to specific concerns arising from family agreements is discussed in Chapter 6.
National Commission of Audit, ‘Age Pension’ in The Report of the National Commission of Audit [9.1]. Fewer than 20% of people aged 65 years receive no pension. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that, in 2012, 2,278,215 people received income through the Age Pension, which was an increase of 57,831 people from the same point in time in 2011: Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Regional Profile, 2008 to 2012, Cat 1379.0.555.001.
National Commission of Audit, above n 1, [9.1].
Department of Human Services (Cth), Department of Human Services Annual Report 2015–2016 (2016) 2.
Department of Human Services (Cth), About Us <www.humanservices.gov.au/corporate/about-us>.
Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services NSW Inc, Submission 293.
Office of the Public Guardian (Qld), Submission 384; Law Society of South Australia, Submission 381; State Trustees (Vic), Submission 367; Justice Connect Seniors Law, Submission 362; Office of the Public Advocate (Qld), Submission 361; Disabled People’s Organisations Australia, Submission 360; COTA, Submission 354; Legal Aid NSW, Submission 352; Law Council of Australia, Submission 351; Aged Care Steps, Submission 340; V Fraser and C Wild, Submission 327; Carers NSW, Submission 321; Institute of Legal Executives (Vic), Submission 320; Darwin Community Legal Service Aged and Disability Advocacy Service, Submission 316; Seniors Rights Service, Submission 296; Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services NSW Inc, Submission 293; FECCA, Submission 292; ADA Australia Submission 283; Alzheimer’s Australia, Submission 282; The Benevolent Society, Submission 280; Churches of Christ Care, Submission 254; Public Trustee of Queensland, Submission 249; Office of the Public Advocate (Vic), Submission 246; Lutheran Church of Australia, Submission 244; W Bonython and B Arnold, Submission 241; Carers Queensland, Submission 236; UnitingCare Australia, Submission 216; Advocare, Submission 213.
See ch 2.
The strategy document defines family and domestic violence as ‘conduct that is violent, threatening, coercive or controlling, or intended to cause the family or household member to be fearful’. This can include conduct relevant to elder abuse such as economic (financial) abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, and serious neglect, where there is a relationship of dependence. It also includes relationships involving carers. The key aim of the strategy is to identify and respond to women and children in situations of domestic violence.
Welfare Rights Centre NSW, Submission 184.
National Welfare Rights Network, Submission 151.