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Alleyne-Toppin sends out warning: Jail for abusers of the elderly

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The woman police constable who is claiming her colleagues refused to investigate a report that her deceased mother was abused at an old folks home can pass on the matter to the Ageing Division of the Ministry of the People and Social Development. Minister in the Ministry, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, said the WPC can inform the division of the case and it will be reported (again) to the police. Alleyne-Toppin said the division also offers counselling services to the victims of abuse and their relatives. She was responding to questions on a newspaper report yesterday that the WPC’s mother was placed in the senior citizens home in central Trinidad in 2011, where she stayed until 2013.


The mother, in her eighties, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and had marks of violence on her body, her daughter said. In July last year, the police officer said she got a call from someone at the home saying her mother was pushed and fell in the bathroom. She died shortly after. The police officer said she reported the matter to the Chaguanas Police  Station and, to date, the matter has not been investigated. Alleyne-Toppin said the ministry is working on more stringent laws to add to the Homes for Older Persons Legislation Act 20 of 2007. At present, the laws are being taken to members of the public for feedback, after which they will be laid in Parliament and debated. Alleyne-Toppin said section 31:2 of the draft legislation states that a relative or member of the public can report a case of abuse to the Inspectorate in the Ageing Division. “The Inspectorate is duty bound to investigate it and report it to the police.”


She said section 32:1 empowers the police to secure a warrant to enter the home and further investigate the matter. “If the abuser is found guilty on a summary conviction he/she will have to pay a $25,000 fine and spend two years in prison. If convicted on an indictment, he/she will have to pay $50,000 and face five years in jail.” Alleyne-Toppin said while this legislation is in the making, people can still report cases of elder abuse to the Ageing Division. “We are encouraging relatives and members of the public to report cases of abuse at senior citizens’ homes. There are things we can do even now.” Defining abuse according to the act, she said, a person who has an older person in her care and wilfully assaults, illtreats or neglects him/her, or exposes him/her to such, will be culpable of abuse.


The minister said feedback from owners of registered old age homes to the new laws was positive. An earlier Guardian report  stated that owners of registered homes said they saw elder abuse in homes in which they once worked, including administering insulin with sewing needles. She said her ministry is also looking at a China model which makes it mandatory for children to take care of their elderly parents, just like how parents must take care of children under 18. “This will help decrease the number of vagrants on the streets,” she said. “It will be a case of children, do you know where your parents are?”


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