Sickening toll of exploitation

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IT is saddening to report the scale of abuse of our elderly people today, with figures revealing how many vulnerable pensioners are being taken advantage of, often by members of their own family.

Sheffield council has revealed there has been a huge increase in the number of elderly people and people with disabilities and learning difficulties who have lodged complaints about abuse - most of which involves financial irregularities or neglect.

The number of cases has risen from 741 in 2008-2009 to 1,586 in 2010-11, albeit the number investigated was 428 last year.

Worryingly, the council had largely anticipated an increase, a direct reflection of the toughening of the economy.

This generation is possible the last of the most trusting generations, where their faith in human nature and neighbourliness was central to their upbringing. But now it appears they are falling victim to that trust because of the frailty of their conditions which is proving too tempting for even members of their own family to ignore.

It is important to recognise that this is a tiny minority of people compared with the thousands who selflessly give up their livelihood to look after loved ones. Without them the state system would crumble under the financial pressure of having to provide care for so many.

What is worrying, though, is that there is little that can be put in place in terms of safeguards.

These are people who are primarily being looked after by carers, to whom they give access to their finances so that they can help them.

The council appears to be doing all it can to expose abuse. What we must see is the Government providing more support to carers so that they do not feel so isolated and are not tempted to steal from those they are supposed to care for.

The meanest thief

BURGLAR Jason Thomas is behind bars today - and that’s the best place for him. For he has spread a trail of misery in a criminal career in which he has notched up a staggering 136 convictions.

His latest thieving spree saw him plunge to a new low as he helped himself to a handful of charity boxes, including those for cancer charities and animal welfare organisations.

He really is Sheffield’s meanest thief.

And with three years now hanging over him, he now has plenty of time to rue the day he decided it was a good idea to help himself to other people’s property rather than work for a living.

We hope he doesn’t waste a moment of his time behind bars reminding himself that he needs to show real remorse and true intent to mend his ways.