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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Call for safeguarding policies to protect at-risk Seniors

A Churchill Fellow from Victoria is calling for adult safeguarding policies to be in place to better protect adults from abuse. 

Churchill Fellow, John Chesterman (pictured, below), who is now the Queensland Public Advocate, says it is currently unclear who to turn to if you suspect an adult in your community is experiencing abuse, neglect or exploitation, but may not necessarily be a victim of crime. Further, he says that each State and Territory needs to establish an agency with the power to receive inquiries, investigate and support the rights and wellbeing of at-risk adults. 

Dr Chesterman believes the right of at-risk adults to live free from abuse is not supported in practice. He has detailed his findings in his research report Supporting and safeguarding at-risk adults.

The article is jointly presented by The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and The University of Queensland, as part of their partnership to develop the flagship publication Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda

“While we need to improve our institutional responses, which among other things means better criminal justice protections and outcomes for marginalised groups, there are people whose immediate needs will not be met by the involvement of existing government agencies,” said Dr Chesterman.

“Many jurisdictions have made significant improvements to the ability of their emergency services to respond to instances of domestic and family violence, and to improve their responses generally to marginalised groups, but they will often have very constrained ability to take remedial action.”

He says that from his international travels, he identified two key elements of any meaningful adult safeguarding response: 

  • The investigating agency must be able to see the person in order to properly assess their wellbeing; and 
  • The investigating agency must be oriented towards providing, and preferably orchestrating, supportive interventions where they are warranted. It is not enough simply to assess the person’s needs – such interventions need to be driven, foremost, by what the person wants to happen.

“The design and optimal performance of any adult safeguarding system requires the negotiation of complex ethical and legal challenges, on topics ranging from the sharing of confidential information through to the recognition of a person’s freedom to refuse offers of assistance.”

“State and territory-based agencies would enable better, and more targeted use of government resources in fields including emergency services and adult guardianship. 

“The design of any state or territory adult safeguarding system must involve consultation with the people who are the subject of such a system – at-risk adults, as well as families and carer groups who know well the indicators of success for such initiatives. 

“In summary, the required reform is for every state and territory to identify one agency which can be contacted by anyone with concerns about adults at risk of harm. Such an agency needs to be rights-based and people-centred,” Dr Chesterman said. 

For more information on the Fellows featured in Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda, visit https://www.churchilltrust.com.au/pip/

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