Helping to keep older New Zealanders safe is the focus of a new elder abuse intervention service that commences tomorrow.

In an introduction to the service today, Minister for Seniors Maggie Barry shared grim examples of elder abuse at its very worst.

“Ena Lai Dung weighed just 29kgs and had 15 broken bones when ambulance officers found her body. Her daughter went to prison for 13 years for manslaughter,” she says.

“World War II veteran Ron Greenhalgh died last year without enough money to pay for his funeral because it was squandered at the TAB by his daughter Carolyn Alleyne. Branded “cold, callous, heartless and cruel” by her brother, Alleyne was sentenced this week to 10 months’ home detention.”

Barry says it’s time to make it clear that such treatment of the elderly is not okay.

“Up to 70,000 seniors will experience some form of elder abuse this year – either physical, psychological, sexual, financial or neglectfuland we have to do more to intervene and protect them.”

Barry says from tomorrow the new Elder Abuse Response Service (EARS) will put the victims of elder abuse first and focus on practical outcomes.

EARS has a free and confidential 24/7 helpline: 0800 32 668 65 (0800 EA NOT OK). Registered nurses will be on the other end of the phone to listen and advise anyone who needs information or support about elder abuse. Translation services will be available to ensure that services are culturally responsive.

“We’ve increased funding for these services and have negotiated new contracts with organisations that have been selected specifically based on their ability to deliver an effective intervention service for our vulnerable older people,” says Barry.

“In addition to longstanding providers like Age Concern receiving a funding increase, 18 new organisations will be involved, including 10 Age Concern branches being funded for the first time.”

There will be a wider geographical spread of service providers to help more at-risk elderly people than ever before.

“From tomorrow, nationwide education, prevention and awareness work will be run through the Office for Seniors, freeing up frontline providers to actively help older people facing different abuse situations,” says Barry.

SuperSeniors Champions, led by patron Sir Peter Snell, is adding its voice to help spread the word and encourage people to speak out and ask for advice and support on elder abuse.

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