Topic: Violence and abuse

Does municipal action plans against violence in close relationships include elderly victims?

Sandmoe, A. (2016). Kommunale handlingsplaner mot vold i nære relasjoner - også for eldre utsatte? [Does municipal action plans against violence in close relationships include elderly victims?] Norwegian only. (Rapport 9/2016).

This report discuss if and how municipal/inter-municipal action plan against violence in close relationships includes elderly people. The report is in Norwegian only, but below you find a summary in English.

This project is a study within the Norwegian Center for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, NKVTS, research program on violence in close relationships 2014-2018.  This research program has been assigned to NKVTS by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and is authorized through the Norwegian government’s action plan on violence in close relationships (Ministry of Justice and Public Security, 2013a, 2013b).

In the government’s action plans from 2008-2011, 2012 and 2014-17 municipalities are encouraged to develop a municipal/ inter-municipal action plan against violence in close relationships. About one-third of the municipalities have taken on this challenge and developed municipal action plans against violence in close relationships. These action plans help to highlight the assistance available in the municipalities and can be an important document in the further development of services.

The definition “violence in close relationships” used in the report correlates to the definition found in authoritative government documents (Ministry of Justice and Public Security, 2013a, 2013b).  Definitions and comprehension of the phenomena “elder abuse” as well as elder abuse occurring in different contexts, from intimate partner violence to violence against elderly people in need of care, are discussed in the following report. The attention of and the efforts found in a Nordic and European setting, against elder abuse, are briefly discussed.   In the past years, strategic national white papers and government plans in Norway have emphasized the need of helping elderly victims of abuse.

The purpose of this project has been to gain knowledge on how the municipal action plans have included those within the Norwegian population, 65 years old and above, who reside in a private home. The project raises four main research questions. These questions ask to which degree elderly persons subjected to abuse are included in the municipality’s action plans and in what way they are presented, what type of help and assistance is recommended and in which way these plans assist professionals in providing service for elderly victims of abuse.  The last question looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the already established plans.

The data collection took place from the autumn of 2015 to the spring of 2016. The method applied was a web-search of municipality’s action plans by searching their home pages on the internet. In many cases it was difficult to find the municipality’s action plan and there were very few municipalities that had a summary or overview of plans/ cases/ internet resources concerning violence. 61 action plans from all over Norway were included in the project and analyzed using a qualitative content analysis.

The results are provided within the framework of the research project’s questions.  The purpose of these action plans were to highlight violence as a societal problem and to develop assistance services for its victims. Approximately one of four of the action plans did not include the elderly population as a target group. Six of the plans described elderly as frail/ or especially vulnerable individuals, while the rest of the plans had a broader definition of the elderly adult cohort.  Even though 47 of the plans included elderly victims in their general section there were few measures mentioned. The most common assistance effort mentioned was informing about the national hotline called “Protective Services for the Elderly.” This was also the most recommended practice for professionals working with cases of abuse. In only three plans were elderly individuals subjected to intimate partner violence mentioned. None of the plans described how services could help and protect elderly individuals who are the primary caregivers of family members with cognitive disorders and/ or aggressive behavior. When reviewing the action plans most of them are in general read as goals to reach instead of concrete measures of assistance. The responsibility of putting these measures into action is often put upon services and systems and to a lesser extent on professionals in certain positions/or specific individuals.

This report discusses to what degree municipal action plans are plans of action or visionary plans. Also discussed is the need for municipal action plans having distinct goals and a specific structure that is emphasized through concrete and committing measures. Also discussed is what an action plan means for both victims and professionals. Strengths and weaknesses of established action plans are discussed as well as important factors that need to be in place so that these action plans are an entity of commitment for both the municipality and its assistance services.

12 recommendations based on the analysis of 61 action plans on violence in close relationships are provided. These recommendations can be useful both on a national level but also for local government as well as for professionals involved in developing municipalities’ action plans against violence in close relationships either through the development of new plans or by revising already existing plans.