The Elder Abuse Recovery Service (EARS) ran from 2015 until December 2020; our unique programme to support older victims of abuse to recover from their experience, regain confidence, and re-integrate into their local communities. Clients were matched with local volunteers who supported them during their recovery and helped them work towards their individual goals.
The service was available in parts of England and Scotland, and aimed to:
support and empower victims to recover from abuse (which could include physical abuse, financial abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or scams);
help victims regain confidence and independence;
reduce isolation and support victims to reintegrate back into their local community;
help abuse victims gain the skills to keep safe in the future.
The project matched trained local volunteers with clients, and provided support in the older person’s own home, care homes or other settings of their choice. The intention was for the client to gradually become less reliant on their volunteer, and to allow them to make the transition towards leaving the project and meeting their individual goals.
Maria* was experiencing psychological and financial abuse at the hands of her son. He turned up at her property, demanding money and on one occasion took out a knife and threatened to kill himself if she didn’t hand over £300. Maria struggled to get over these experiences, and also felt lonely and isolated due to caring responsibilities. She rarely left home and felt like she was struggling to cope.
When Maria was referred to us, we matched her with a local volunteer who helped her reconnect with the local Portuguese community, as well as long-term befriending support. The volunteer also helped her claim welfare benefits, and gradually supported her in regaining self-confidence and independence. Without the support of her volunteer, Maria would have remained at home, with limited access to outside intervention and social opportunities to help with her recovery. The EARS programme has been a turning point in her life and has enabled her to see past what happened and begin to enjoy her life once more.
names have been changed and a stock photo used to protect clients’ identities.
Jim*, 86, was referred to EARS by an advocacy agency. Jim had been financially abused by his son who was abusing his position as Power of Attorney. Although the Power of Attorney was revoked and Jim had recovered control of his bank account, he was still experiencing the effects of the financial, emotional and psychological abuse from both his son and grandson.
A male Recovery Volunteer was allocated to Jim and, following an initial visit from our Project Coordinator, Jim and his volunteer discussed what Jim would like to achieve. Jim told us that he would like emotional support and friendship, and support to recover from his experience of abuse. Jim also identified issues that concerned him, outlining the need for banks to be more vigilant over allowing people to take money from another person’s account; making sure that criminal behaviour by family members is not overlooked; and that the severity and seriousness of crimes against older people is understood by all.
Our volunteer provided friendship to Jim, helped with techniques to improve his well-being and resilience, and encouraged him to think about how best to move on. Practically, he has also helped Jim to access a gardener, and helped him seek professional help for a medical condition.
names have been changed and a stock photo used to protect clients’ identities.
The EARS service was an invaluable source of support and encouragement for many older people, and we’re proud of the support our volunteers and staff provided to many older people throughout the project’s lifetime. Their testimonials speak for themselves:
“I would like to give you feedback on the wonderful help and support you and my volunteer gave me. As the months have gone by I have become mentally stronger and got my confidence back. In those early dark days my volunteer lifted my spirits on her visits and helped me to start thinking positively”.
“During the time my volunteer has been supporting me she has inspired me in many ways, turning nasty negatives into positives. She never gave up on me. All the while she was re-building my confidence”.
“Hourglass’ support has been so important in finding I was not alone and that this happens to other people. I was blaming myself but realised it was not my fault. My health problems mean there have been setbacks but the support from EARS gave me constant support and pushed me in the right direction. They have given me my life back”.
“I don’t think I would have been as good as I am without the support of the service. I’ve had a very bad time and Hourglass have helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel and that there is hope for me in the future”.
While the older people we supported through the EARS service were undoubtedly our priority, the service also provided invaluable opportunities for our volunteers. From learning new skills and taking part in training, to developing meaningful relationship with local older people, our volunteers really valued the opportunity to volunteer with the EARS service.
EARS volunteer “I think I made the right decision when I joined Hourglass. Volunteers are given a sound training base to look at the challenges, trials & tribulations that some older folk face from family, friends & strangers.
Hourglass provides a service that other charities can’t in focusing on the needs of older people who have been abused and left alone with no one to support them. It feels great to be part of a team where you are given lots of support & guidance before & during the time you are engaged with a client. I would thoroughly recommend becoming a volunteer with Hourglass. Together we can make a difference & help those in real need during this challenging time”.
Not only did the EARS service provide a unique vehicle for supporting our clients to reach their individual goals, many went on to support others, including supporting Hourglass with fundraising.
One of recent clients, Alice (aged 80), raised £206 on a sponsored walk during the August heatwave. Alice made good progress with her recovery, and greatly valued the support from her volunteer.
“I’m alright on the outside but it still gets me on the inside sometimes. But I didn’t let it beat me and you helped me with that’.
From 1st January 2021, the EARS service is no longer be operating as a standalone service. We will, however, continue to support older people with their recovery from abuse, alongside many other support services, through our innovative new Community Response programme. Launching in Scotland initially in November 2020 (link to Scottish page), our long-term plans are to provide Community Hubs across the UK and Ireland.
As a charity committed to learning from past experiences, and striving for continuous improvement in support our beneficiaries, Hourglass conducted a review of the EARS service in 2019 which highlighted a need for change. While we recognised the value of the EARS service, we also recognised some learning in relation to the way we deliver our services and evaluate their impact.
In 2020, Hourglass commenced initial work around establishing our new Community Response programme, which incorporates the most successful elements of the EARS service into this new approach. This allows us to retain our invaluable volunteer-led support model to continue directly supporting older people during their recovery from abuse; but as part of a reshaped and much wider offer of support. This approach will ensure Hourglass can build on our current programmes, and bring together a full suite of services into a single local access point.
Find out about our Community Response programme here
Access support from our Helpline here