Covid leads to concerns over elder abuse, youth drug taking

The Government has been advised allowing bed taxes by the Productivity Commission. Photo: Getty...
Queenstown has been hit hard by Covid-19. Photo: Getty Images

Abuse of older people and young people turning to drugs are two issues raised in a new social care report for Queenstown.

Young people had also been presenting to not-for-profit organisations with alcohol abuse issues and eating disorders, the Social Sector Capacity Report released by Queenstown Lakes District Council on Monday said.

However, Southern District Health Board director of allied health, mental health and addictions Adell Cox said the SDHB had not seen an increase in cases through its providers.

But there was "an increase in referrals for anxiety and low mood among children and young people".

Names of the organisations that contributed to the council report were withheld for confidentiality reasons.

One provider said abuse of older people had been limited to one or two cases a month before Covid-19, but this had increased to up to five a week.

Age Concern Southland manager Janette Turner confirmed elder abuse cases, which involved anything from threatening and controlling behaviour to physical assaults, had escalated.

The lockdowns put pressure on families and in the case of older people could leave them isolated with their abuser, she said.

"The perpetrator has the perfect excuse to say ‘no [visits], they could bring Covid in’."

In some cases those helping older people with shopping had refused to return bank cards or even bought their own groceries with the older person’s money.

Concerns were not limited to Queenstown and there were many referrals across Southland, including in Invercargill.

Some men seeking company were being targeted by scammers, particularly in Invercargill.

Ms Turner said older people had returned to lunches and social gatherings run by Age Concern after lockdown looking "frail and lacking confidence".

"They were shaking, they were frail. Some of the men who are regulars were so pleased to be back, but they were nervous."

SDHB chief nursing and midwifery officer Jane Wilson said she took the issue "very seriously" and praised thosehighlighting it.

But the SDHB did not hold any statistics on elder abuse.

Otago Central Lakes area prevention manager John Fookes said police in Queenstown had not noticed a rise in cases of elder abuse or drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

However, not all referrals would involve the police, he said.

"When people are in a difficult situation, please seek help from a professional and if it is criminal, our door is always open."

The council report said young people might be feeling vulnerable because of family stress, anxiety related to studies and uncertainty about opportunities post Covid-19.

Ms Cox said the health board recognised "the Queenstown Lakes community has been dealt some serious challenges this year" and urged anybody needing help to speak to their GP.

Central Lakes Family Services now employed a full-time social worker for the seven Queenstown primary schools, she said.

A council spokesman said the council would be pushing for greater investment in health and education from government agencies and was working on a youth-related work programme targeted at tackling mental health issues, employment, leadership, climate action and representation.


Not the Spirit of The Blitz. Call the police, don't allow sole charge.

Men seeking 'Company': a pandemic is a stupid time to fraternise.



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