Picture Henk Kruger/Independent Media

Cape Town - Almost 690 cases of alleged abuse of the elderly have been reported to the Department of Social Development in the Western Cape in the last five years. This emerged during a standing committee briefing on community development by the provincial Department of Social Development in the legislature on Tuesday.

The committee was given an update on the status and management of old-age homes in the Western Cape.

Some of the cases that were reported occurred in old-age homes, but most took place in various communities.

The budget of APD Thys Blom Centre in Worcester and the status of an investigation into the Serendipity Old Age Home in Panorama, where 15 people died following allegations of negligence and abuse in 2014, were also under the spotlight.

The department’s representatives told the committee that it had recorded more than 687 cases in a manual register of alleged abuses since the inception of the Older Persons Act in 2010. Types of abuse included assault, domestic violence and theft of grants.

Social Development MEC Albert Fritz’s spokesperson, Sihle Ngobese, said it was crucial to point out that the vast majority of these cases did not occur in old-age homes but in the community. “Unfortunately, the department cannot give details of cases because they form part of the caseloads of various service providers and non-government organisations which are handling them,” said Ngobese.

There are 119 residential facilities and 218 service centres in the Western Cape.

Speaking to the media after the briefing, chief director of Social Welfare at the department Charles Jordan said it was shocking that so many cases had been reported.

“We are geared to deal with these cases. I know it sounds shocking to the public, but we know how to deal with them because we are so used to dealing with similar kinds of cases. We are quite familiar with what we must do and how we must approach it,” said Jordan.

He said charges had been laid against people in terms of the Domestic Violence Act.

“Then a case will be opened and the police will do their own investigation. That person can be charged criminally.”

Jordan said the department was interested in the alleged cases of abuse and it wanted to make examples of people.

Asked for an update on the investigation into the Serendipity Old Age Home, Jordan said the facility was still in operation and had improved.

“There was no evidence of neglect. We conducted investigations and visited the hospitals, and we could not find evidence of neglect.

“But we were not happy with the norms and standards. The place was very cramped, the food had to be improved,” he said.

An old-age home with about 20 residents in Panorama had been shut down after the owner failed to meet the standards set out in the Older Persons Act.

Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged marketing manager Joubert Paulse said he was aware that abuses were happening at some old-age homes, but had strict measures in place to deal with such incidents.

“What we don’t hear about are the abuses at home. There is more abuse of elderly people in their homes. That is why we have programmes and social workers to deal with these,” he said.

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Cape Times