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2012 National Retired Members Conference
28 May 2012

Conference is concerned to learn of the problem of domestic violence among older couples. Recent publicity has revealed a previously hidden world in which women have endured decades of abuse which sometimes tragically results in their death.

In October 2010 an 81 year old woman died from a bleed to the brain following an alleged assault by her 88 year old husband. Despite a major police investigation into possible manslaughter, in April 2011the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute her frail husband who has since died. But a serious case review revealed a history of domestic violence allegations going back 7 years and a failure on the part of the agencies involved to communicate adequately and therefore to be aware of the pattern of escalating violence and increasing calls to the emergency services by the victim – more than one a month in the 7 months leading to her death. Such a scenario is not uncommon and has served to highlight the incidence of domestic violence among older couples, and more importantly to make the relevant agencies aware of its existence.

Conference applauds UNISON for its pioneering work in the field of domestic violence, but realises that this may have been predicated on a presumption that it is a problem affecting younger women whereas the situation as it relates to older/elderly women is nowhere near as recognised. Furthermore failing health and other factors can make dealing with domestic violence in older relationships much more problematic.

Conference notes that there are currently a couple of initiatives set up to begin to tackle the problem of domestic violence in the older/elderly age group. One is at Solace Women’s Aid, a London domestic violence service that has funding to develop a project for older women. The other is a research study being conducted by a reader in mental health in older people at the University of East Anglia who is one of the few people studying this hidden area. She is working on a new EU-funded, six county project examining the prevalence of domestic violence among older people.

Conference believes that UNISON must continue its work in tackling domestic violence and that this must now include its incidence among older/elderly couples,

Conference therefore instructs the National Retired Members’ Committee to:

1 liaise with the NEC and the National Women’s Committee on all aspects of work related to domestic violence, in particular where it affects older/elderly couple and to seek to ensure that its incidence in this age group is part of UNISON’s overall strategy;

2 keep abreast of all and any developments in this area and ensure that they are fed into UNISON’s work in this field;

3 publicise this hitherto hidden problem in all appropriate publications;

4 encourage any retired members who may be victims of domestic violence to seek help and support through the union and/or relevant organisations;

5 report back to National Retired Members’ Conference 2013.