SENIORS groups have welcomed the announcement of a NSW Parliamentary inquiry into elder abuse as an important step towards recognising the often hidden issue and paving the way for better prevention and prosecution.
Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association senior adviser Charmaine Crowe said she hoped the inquiry would produce effective options for reform.
"As a community we are ill-equipped to respond to cases of elder abuse, not least because it can be very difficult to actually prosecute a case of elder abuse, especially when the victim has dementia or is worried about speaking out," she said.
"Older people have a right to be protected against abuse, whether it be committed by a family member, care worker or someone else."
Council on the Ageing NSW chief executive Ian Day said the inquiry was very good news.
He said stronger promotion was needed for the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and widespread community education was essential.
It was particularly important to provide support for older people to report abuse, which they were often unwilling to do for fear of disrupting family relationships.
"In most cases it's about their children, and in most cases the line you hear is 'I just want it to stop'."
He said isolation and entrenched ageism within the community were contributing factors.
Inquiry chair Greg Donnelly said the process would focus on the prevalence of forms of elder abuse including financial, physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect.
"The committee is interested in hearing about the current support services available to victims of elder abuse, and whether the NSW Police have adequate power to respond to allegations.
"In addition, the committee will consider the effectiveness of laws, policies and strategies to safeguard older persons."
The committee will also look at developing long-term measures to prevent abuse and develop ways of empowering older people to better protect themselves.
The inquiry comes after the establishment of the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline in 2013, which has received thousands of calls reporting abuse.
Submissions close on November 15 and public hearings will be held late this year and early in 2016.
The inquiry will report to parliament in May.