CORONAVIRUS control measures will create a “pressure cooker” for the abuse of older people, a specialist charity fears.

The Hourglass charity – formerly known as Action on Elder Abuse –fears social distancing and self-isolation guidance means there is a “significant increased risk of abuse and neglect” to the older population as household tensions rise.

Its research suggests 25% of people in Scotland fail to see “acts of domestic violence directed towards an older person” as abuse.

That’s lower than the UK figure, which is almost 35%, but the charity says attitudes towards neglect are even more concerning, with 40% of people stating that failure to attend to an older person’s needs in a timely manner is not abusive. For the UK as a whole, that rate is 50%.

Hourglass says those findings, coupled with the new restrictions on movement, could combine to create a “pressure cooker” environment where more ill-treatment takes place.

Hourglass’ chief executive Richard Robinson said: “What we have here is a recipe for disaster. Even under the best of circumstances, we know that more than a million older people experience abuse or neglect in the UK every year. The findings from our polling indicate that even before coronavirus was a factor – the research was conducted in January and February of this year – a shockingly large proportion of people have a disturbing tolerance for abusive behaviours towards older people.

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"We also know that assaults and domestic murders surge by as much as 25% during the festive season – a time when the combination of financial strain and family members cooped up in close proximity exerts additional burden on relationships. The lockdown measures – necessary as they are for tackling coronavirus – will create a pressure cooker environment for abuse, with vulnerable older people at particular risk.”

Reports from China suggest domestic abuse cases have risen during the lockdown there.

It is feared that increased isolation will make incidents harder to spot here.

Hourglass is now calling on the Scottish Government to provide emergency funding to it and other specialist organisations.

Dr Margaret Flynn, joint editor of the Journal of Adult Protection, commented: “Hourglass’ data is shocking because cruelty, neglect and extreme hurt at the hands of trusted others is harmful whenever it occurs over the life course.

“If these harmful beliefs are allowed to persist, then the abuse of older people will continue and those responsible will not be held to account.”

The attitude stats were taken from a survey of 2500 people, which will be published in full later this year.

Hourglass, which works in each of the UK nations, has the only national freephone helpline dedicated to tackling abuses against older people. It runs from 9am-5pm Monday-Friday and is available on 080 8808 8141 for confidential support and information.