COVID-19 is highly contagious. To protect against this, the Victorian Government put the state into two extended lockdowns during 2020. While this was extremely effective at controlling the pandemic, it also had huge ramifications for family life.
For older people at risk of or experiencing elder abuse, lockdown introduced new challenges. How do you seek help if you can’t leave the house and have no privacy to make a phone call? And how do you support family members who are suddenly unemployed or under stress, while making sure you’re not being abused?
To better understand the challenges, SRV analysed the calls made by our advice service in 2020 compared to 2019.
We found that fewer people made the call for help, with calls in 2020 down 20% from 2019 levels. The decrease occures mainly during the lockdowns, with calls increasing to above 2019 levels as soon as restrictions eased. Of particular concern was a 30% decrease in calls from clients born overseas, and a 38% decrease in clients requiring an interpreter. This was worrying as CALD clients may already be less engaged with services such as SRV.
The lockdowns may have intensified family conflict that was linked to people’s living arrangements. In 2020, an adult child returning home was more likely to be a catalyst for abuse than in 2019. This may be related to the reported increase in people moving back into the family home. Overall, 2020 saw a higher proportion of clients experiencing abuse from a perpetrator who lived with them than in the previous year. There was also a significant increase in the proportion of perpetrators who were experiencing financial difficulties.
While there were fewer clients reporting abuse in 2020 compared to 2019, there was an increase in the proportion of clients reporting financial, psychological, and social abuse, and a decrease in physical abuse.