By Daniel Boffey - Policy Editor, The Observer - September 8, 2013
As many as 370,000 older people have been abused in their own homes by a carer, relative or friend in the last year, according to figures, exposing what has been described as a "hidden national scandal".
The number aged over 65 who are physically, psychologically or financially persecuted at home every year is likely to reach almost half a million by the end of the decade.
Elderly men and women across the country, from all walks of life, are routinely ill-treated, yet former health minister Paul Burstow warns that their plight is often ignored or dismissed.
The scale of the abuse, and its rapid growth, has prompted Burstow, who uncovered the figures, to demand a series of radical changes in the law to aid the detection and punishment of those misusing their positions.
As it stands, social services are constrained in their ability to gain access to the elderly in their own homes when a carer is proving an obstacle, even where abuse is suspected. There is also no criminal charge of neglect available against those mistreating a vulnerable and older person who is judged to be of sound mind.
Burstow, a Liberal Democrat MP, told the Observer that elderly people looked after in their homes enjoyed few legal protections and were all too often condemned to living their last years in misery, "out of sight and out of mind". He said:
"This is a hidden national scandal. The thing that worries me is what this says about our society."