Alarming new research by Hourglass Cymru reveals that the abuse of older people comes last in line for government and the public alike

News image
safer ageing week 2021

1 December 2021

To coincide with Safer Ageing Week Hourglass, the only charity in Wales focused on tackling the abuse and neglect of older people, has examined the profile and priority given to the issue by the UK Government and the public over the last year.


Stark findings highlight how the public don’t consider the abuse of older people – and more staggeringly - those in power, responsible for safeguarding, have given no mention of abuse towards older people across the past year, even after living through a pandemic and the public are unaware of levels of abuse in the UK. The charity’s study found:


  • Only 6% of people in Wales think of older adults (65+) when they think of victims of abuse. Nearly a fifth (17%) think of animals

  • The Welsh public woefully underestimates the number of older people who experience abuse – not one person surveyed thought the number of UK victims reaches over 2.5m every year

  • Nearly a quarter thought there were only 10% (250,000) of the actual number of older people experiencing abuse each year

  • A 2020 poll by Hourglass showed there were over 143,000 older victims of abuse in Wales

  • The UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel and the two ministers responsible for safeguarding didn’t mention the abuse of older people once in any of their official ministerial speeches, papers or on Twitter

  • The Prime Minister, Downing Street, the Home Office and the Department of Justice didn’t mention the abuse of older people once on Twitter

  • Hansard recorded mentions of the abuse of older people 35 times in Parliament compared to 3603 mentions for domestic abuse, 746 mentions for child abuse and 915 mentions for fox hunting

  • The abuse of older people was mentioned just 9 times in debates in all Parliaments and all those mentions were in the House of Lords or the Scottish Parliament. There wasn’t a single mention in the House of Commons by Ministers or MPs

  • The abuse of older people was mentioned 4,500 times on Twitter compared to over half a million mentions for domestic abuse

  • People tweeted about animal abuse nearly 6 times as much as they tweeted about the abuse of older people

  • Grouse shooting was mentioned on Twitter nearly four times as often, fox hunting nearly 20 times as often and parking nearly 30 times as often


The research, compiled in a report called “Last in Line” is stark in its findings and shows just how little profile and priority the issue has in government and for the public.


It also established that there currently isn’t a single source of statutory funding in Wales with ring-fenced resources to tackle the abuse of older people. Hourglass noted no funding has been allocated to this issue specifically since 2016.


Commenting about the research, Hourglass CEO Richard Robinson said:

“It’s shameful that an issue that affects a million older people a year is given so little attention by ministers, politicians and the general public. Rightly, other forms of abuse like child abuse and domestic violence have a high profile but it is unbelievable that a niche issue like grouse shooting gets so much more attention than the abuse of older people.”


“We urgently need to push the issue forward from last in line and sound the alarm for the impact it is having on older people and those who care for them. Even since the pandemic, major public and government funding have forgotten the 2.7 million older victims of abuse and neglect every year in the UK.


“We want to join forces with our peers in the abuse sector, be given the same significance and urgency and end time on all forms of abuse and neglect. Without dedicated resources, we are only going to see the problem worsen and end up with many more older people experiencing or being at risk of abuse.”


Responding the research, Darren Millar, Shadow Minister for the Constitution and North Wales said:

“Hourglass Cymru has a unique role in supporting older people when they need it most and this study underlines how under-reported and misunderstood the abuse of older people is in Wales and the UK generally.


“I would call upon my peers and colleagues across the political spectrum to support Safer Ageing Week and to end the inequality. Not only does Hourglass Cymru need our support to heighten public awareness of this awful issue – it also needs financial support to level up. We will all grow old, I can only hope that we can do it safely and with the life raft of a unique charity like Hourglass.”


Hourglass commissioned the research to highlight just how low a priority tackling this form of abuse is during Safer Ageing Week. It is calling for:

  • A national campaign to raise public awareness of the issue and increase the public’s support for tackling it

  • The creation of a Safer Ageing Fund in Wales to tackle abuse and support safer ageing for older people across the UK this could include specific funding from bodies like Comic Relief, National Lottery etc.

  • Abuse and neglect of older people to be given equal significance within the sector



Notes to editors


Hourglass the only charity in Wales focused on the abuse and neglect of older people whose mission is simple: end the harm, abuse and exploitation of older people.

The charity has nearly 30 years’ experience as Action on Elder Abuse and over that time its work has touched tens of thousands of people, shaped government policy and amplified the issue in national press.