Specialist support for older victim-survivors of abuse debated in the House of Lords

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Specialist support for older victim-survivors of abuse debated in the House of Lords


Last week, Hourglass Patron Lord Foulkes tabled an amendment to the Government’s Victims and Prisoners Bill. This amendment called for all Police Crime Commissioners to commission specialist “older people’s independent domestic violence advisors” and “older people’s independent sexual violence advisors”.

Lord Foulkes told the House of Lords that there “are currently PCC contracts for such OPIDVAs in Thames Valley, Sussex, Kent, and in five boroughs in London—Greenwich, Southwark, Bexley, Lambeth and Lewisham. There are similar domestic abuse support workers who specialise in supporting older victims in Sussex, Surrey, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and another commissioner in Wokingham Borough Council.”

There are many parts of England and Wales where PCC’s do not offer specialist support for older people. This is clearly a huge gap, especially when we have an ageing population.

Baroness Brinton from the Liberal Democrats agreed with Lord Foulkes saying “we assume that it is younger people who tend to be victims of domestic abuse, economic abuse and sexual violence, but that is not the case. Older people’s circumstances are often different, and they require more specialist advice. That does not mean that a person cannot be qualified to be a specialist adviser in two or three areas, but it means they have done the training and understand the differences. I am very mindful of that, and these Benches are supportive of it.”

Labour Peer Baroness Thornton also supported Lord Foulkes amendments saying “older people need particular support and help as victims of violence. We can imagine why that might be the case. It feels like we should not really have to say it, but it is the case, and this is an important suite of amendments, which I hope the Minister will invite to be part of the wider discussion that we will have about how different groups can be supported as victims as we move forward.”

Responding for the Government was Lord Roborough. He thanked Lord Foulkes for this amendment and said the Government recognise the vital support that older people’s advisers provide to older victims of these terrible crimes. The advisers offer invaluable emotional support, provide a focus on safety and help them navigate the criminal justice system.”

He went on to say “As I have indicated in relation to the amendment on children’s ISVAs and IDVAs, the Government are open to considering the case for guidance for other types of roles, although my starting point is that guidance for these roles will be covered within the planned umbrella guidance for ISVAs and IDVAs. This will cover a range of specialisms, including the different considerations needed for older people.”

Lord Roborough concluded by praising the work of Hourglass. He said “I reassure noble Lords that we are continuing to draft guidance with the support of a working group made up of various representatives across the sector, including Hourglass, which does a fantastic job supporting and advocating for older victims of abuse, so that we get it right. The dedicated section on tailoring services to meet victims’ needs covers the particular needs that older victims may have.”

This is the strongest commitment yet from the Government that they will be encouraging PCC’s to consider commissioning older people’s IDVAs and ISVAs. We know that specialist support for older victim-survivors is vital to tackling abuse of older people. It is time that PCC’s across England and Wales made sure this support is available.

You can watch the question being raised here