By James Tout on 18 October 2018
Journalista campaign helps Action on Elder Abuse nudge lawmakers towards hate crime ruling
When running a media campaign, it is always helpful to have one clear area of focus.
In our three-year partnership with Action on Elder Abuse – a small charity that punches well above its weight – our mission has been to raise awareness of the need for abuse of older people to be made an aggravated offence, similar to existing ‘hate crimes’ based on race, religion or disability.
They – and we – believe that this has the potential to be one of the most effective weapons our country could have in tackling the problem of elder abuse, estimated to affect around a million older adults each year.
It would reflect the fact that crimes against older people are not only targeted against some of the most vulnerable members of our community, but also tend to have a much more severe impact than the same crime committed against a younger person. Moreover, empowering our judiciary to hand out tougher sentences to those who abuse older people will ensure that the two main functions of prosecution – punishment of the criminal and the deterrence of others – is served.
We’ve highlighted the need for this legislation in all of our work with the charity, from letters to local newspapers to interviews with national papers and broadcasters.
Our approach goes back to a communications strategy we developed for the charity when we first started working with them. In it, we advised them to align their campaigning with existing protections around hate crime, to give the public and policymakers an easy reference point for a practicable legal solution. All of our messaging and supporting evidence links back to this easy-to-digest analogy. And it’s been remarkably successful in embedding this association in the media and public consciousness.
So this week, we were delighted to see Action on Elder Abuse’s campaign make a huge step towards becoming reality, as Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that a review of current hate crime provisions would be carried out by the Law Commission in order to ‘ensure that criminal law is working effectively across the protected characteristics’.
And as you’d expect, we’ve worked with Action on Elder Abuse to ensure the pressure is kept up in media coverage of this story, with the charity’s chief executive Gary FitzGerald stressing the need for any changes in to “make it clear that we, as a society, will not tolerate these cowardly acts against some of the most vulnerable people in our community” in outlets such as the BBC, Daily Mail, Care Home.co.uk, Daily Express, ITV and Yahoo.
As Gary points out, this change to our law is “long overdue” and could be truly transformative for older people in the UK. Both we and Action on Elder Abuse will be watching the progress of the review with interest.