May 29, 2020

A Discussion About Elder Abuse With Professor John Williams

In this week’s podcast Alan discusses issues of elder abuse with Prof. John Williams.

John was Professor of Law and Criminology at Aberystwyth University. His main area of research is examining how the law affects older people with a particular emphasis on human rights, social care, the criminal justice system and elder abuse. He is the author of many academic and practitioner papers on topics such as the rights of older prisoners, social care of older prisoners, the case for a public law on the protection of adults at risk, care home design and human rights, and international human rights and older people. Most recently, he authored Protection Of Older People in Wales: A Guide To The Law. This guide was published by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales and is designed to assist practitioners working with older people at risk of abuse.

John is currently a member of the Welsh Government's advisory group on the new law on adult protection in Wales. He recently acted as legislative adviser to the Health and Social Care Committee of the National Assembly for Wales on the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill. In June 2012 John was a member the Expert Group on the Human Rights of Older People that was organised by the United Nations. He is a trustee of Age UK, Age Scotland, and Ceredigion CAB, and a board member of Consumer Futures. John is a member of the Welsh Advisory Group of the Law Commission for England and Wales.

Elder abuse is a complex and emotive issue and it is difficult to discuss but we all have something in common: we were children once and we are all getting older yet our society experiences ageism.

Elder abuse encompasses not just physical assaults, but neglect and exploitation. Abuse can occur in the home, within families, and in care settings.

In this episode of the podcast, the question is asked whether further legislation is needed to promote and protect the legal rights of older people, or whether it’s a case that existing laws and policies need to be respected?

In that context, is it right that when an older person is involved, exploitation is sometimes seen as a welfare issue as opposed to a potential crime? When those with a responsibility to investigate exploitation allegations do so, is their investigation done through the prism of ageism, even if only subconsciously?

Alan and John discuss some of these issues in the context of COVID–19 pandemic and its impact on care and nursing homes. If elderly people are being confined to their rooms, or decisions are being made not to give them equal access to medical treatment (if that is the case), are their legal rights being compromised? All have the right to life under the European Convention of Human Rights, and equally a right not to be unlawfully detained or falsely imprisoned. In a recent episode of the podcast, we pointed out that you do not have to have bars on your window to be imprisoned. There is considerable scope in the “lockdown” provisions for people’s rights to freedom and life to be subconsciously or inadvertently compromised, and there are no exceptions just because you are “over 70”.

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