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Like many Canadians, CNPEA, provincial/territorial elder abuse prevention networks, and local agencies have eagerly awaited the announcement of the federal budget 2021. 

The announcement of funding to tackle systemic inequities that flared under Covid-19, and to fight gender-based violence is very encouraging. We are particularly pleased to see commitments to long-term-care and to seniors’ mental health, as well as significant resourcing to support aging in place. Fostering the social inclusion, and the mental and physical well-being of older Canadians - in the community and in long term care - is a crucial step toward lowering risk factors for elder abuse and neglect.

We also welcome the statement of support for Canadian charities and nonprofits through a temporary Community Services Recovery Fund, which will be welcome for many of us in the sector. However…

The Budget cites plans for better data collection and for improved access to justice in general but makes no specific mention of elder abuse. This is a somewhat disappointing direction, as “investing in better data collection and law enforcement related to elder abuse” features prominently in the mandate letters of the Minister of Seniors and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

Elder abuse is mentioned, albeit briefly, alongside intimate partner violence and child maltreatment, noting $50 million over five years for the Public Health Agency of Canada to develop “pilot interventions” that will foster healthy relationships.

Pilots are great for innovation but these, we know, have a limited shelf life. Without sustained operational funding for organizations and elder abuse prevention networks, these pilots fall away within a fragmented sector and cannot make a significant difference in supporting vulnerable or at-risk older people. Increased funding to support a sustainable infrastructure for elder abuse prevention and response is essential to the work being done across Canada. Successful programs, such as It’s Not Right, Neighbours, Friends and Families for Older Adults, have already had investments from the federal government that we can build on. A pan-Canadian approach and commitment to prevention would bring Canadians together to work toward common goals that benefit people of all ages across the country.

We appreciate the challenges of governing during the pandemic and appreciate the leadership shown by the federal government this past year. It is our hope that the budget will be clarified with respect to abuse and neglect of older adults. We also hope that there will be meaningful opportunities for us to engage in meaningful dialogue with government leaders to help inform decision-making.

To truly “Age Well at Home” older adults must feel safe, respected, and be free from violence. We have good ideas about how to achieve and sustain that outcome and look forward to working with the Minister of Seniors, the Hon. Deb Schulte, and her provincial/territorial counterparts to achieve significant milestones in addressing elder abuse and to keep older Canadian safe from harm.