Older people in West Sussex affected by abuse, whether personal, financial or through scams, have a new support network thanks to the expansion of Action on Elder Abuse.
The charity has been running a service in East Sussex for the past three years and is extending its recovery service across West Sussex.
A launch event was held at Southwick Community Centre in Southwick on Tuesday, where victims helped by the service and volunteers spoke about their experiences.
Carly Snead, head of elder abuse recovery services, said: “This service involves support for people over the age of 55 who have experienced abuse and are seeking support following their experience.
“It involves volunteers supporting older clients to work towards small achievable goals, which could include starting a new or old social activity, reintegrating them back into their community, helping them to regain their confidence and independence that has subsequently been lost due to the abuse experienced.
“We held an event at Southwick Community Centre and it was a really good turnout. It is such a big issue throughout the UK. We estimate there are about 2,000 people affected in East Sussex and 3,100 in West Sussex.”
Abuse takes many forms, including romance scams and children taking their parents’ money without consent.
Carly said: “We are not judgemental and you don’t have to have reported it to the police. You can talk about the abuse but if you would rather talk about something different, it’s fine.”
The charity launched with a pilot project in London in 2015 then branched out to East Sussex. It was set up to provide ongoing support for people, primarily after the abuse ended.
Carly said: “We have now been able to go into West Sussex and at the moment, it is very early stages. At Southwick, we gave out packs explaining what we do and spoke about the local picture. We will be expanding on that over the next six months.”
The service is free to clients and usually means 12 months of support, either by phone or face-to-face.
Carly said: “The client needs to have the capacity to understand what has happened to them and to consent to that support in moving forward. We help the client to start to live their lives and to protect them from abuse in the future.
“It goes at the client’s pace but we want to make sure they do not develop a dependence on the volunteer. We want to make sure they have something to focus on, so we aim to get them involved in social activities in the area.”
One client, for example, wanted to start doing Pilates, so the volunteer went with them to a class.
For some, the abuse comes on top of many other difficult experiences in their life but Carly said they can and do come through it.
“Some think that because they have reached a certain age, they are beyond help but they realise their life hasn’t ended, they just need a bit of help,” she added.
“With anybody who has been a victim of abuse, speaking out that first time is very difficult. For an elderly person, they come from a different generation who don’t talk about things.
“Some people affected by financial abuse have said they knew the abuse was going on but the fear of being alone is far greater than losing the money. Sometimes the people taking the money genuinely don’t think they are doing anything wrong, they thing they are just taking their inheritance.”
The Elder Abuse Recovery Service at Action on Elder Abuse has two paid staff, the rest are volunteers, and more are needed in West Sussex as the charity expands.
Visit www.elderabuse.org.uk for more information or call the helpline on 08088088141.