In recent years there has been an increasing emphasis within many societies on dealing with situations of violence and abuse. In the United Kingdom, following an initial focus on child abuse in the 1970s and domestic violence in the 1980s, the abuse and neglect of older people began to elicit concern during the 1990s. The predominant focus was on abuse and neglect of elders in the domestic setting although increasingly there has been a move towards consideration of abuse and neglect occurring within institutional settings (Glendenning and Kingston 1999, Stanley et al. 1999). This chapter will discuss abuse and neglect occurring in the UK. It aims to provide a brief overview of current knowledge concerning elder abuse followed by a discussion of some of the issues relating to the prevention of abuse and neglect from a UK perspective. Elder abuse and neglect are not new phenomena (Stearns 1986) and literary
and historical documents exist to conﬁrm this. Nevertheless, it is eﬀectively only since 1988 that the problem has really begun to be identiﬁed and examined within a UK context. Although the phenomena were initially recognised by English doctors in the mid-1970s, it was not until the late 1980s that the issue was really taken seriously within the diﬀerent countries that comprise the UK and this was at diﬀerent points in time. The focus that developed in England was largely due to a national conference in London in 1988 organised by the British Geriatrics Society (a group of physicians concerned with older people). The amount of research and material published about the subject in the
UK has been increasing quite steadily. However, in many ways, it is still comparatively early in the identiﬁcation of the problem and the development of responses to it. For example, it was not until 1993 that there was any clear sign from the UK government that elder abuse was perceived as a problem in need of attention (DoH 1993), although there has been a consistent, if rather slow approach from successive governments since that time (DoH 1999, DoH 2000, WAG 2000). The abuse of older people in institutions is an area where there has been even less research and attention paid. While there has been a
long history across the UK of scandals in institutional care, these tend to have been investigated and treated as separate inquiries into standards and quality of care rather than as concerns relating to abuse and abusive situations. Undoubtedly elder abuse and neglect are complex and sensitive areas to
explore. This was also the case with child abuse and domestic violence against younger women. There have been diﬃculties as well in establishing a sound theoretical base. This is partly due to the lack of agreement concerning deﬁnitions, but also due to problems in researching the topic (Ogg and Munn-Giddings 1993, Penhale 1999). Since the 1990s, however, issues concerning violence towards older people in the UK have been raised on a consistent basis and the taboo associated with elder abuse has been challenged and has gradually diminished, although in relation to some areas, such as sexual abuse, the taboo is still evident within society, which mirrors an initial reluctance to discuss and consider child sexual abuse when this was discovered as an issue in the 1980s.