Department Launches Investigation into Serendipity Elder Abuse Claims
The Department of Social Development has launched an investigation into the unregistered Serendipity Old Age Home, after serious allegations of elder abuse were raised.
Minister Albert Fritz issued an urgent directive for the department to investigate the allegations against the facility, and immediately take corrective action as prescribed under the Older Persons Act no. 13 of 2006.
It is important to note that according to the Act, all residential facilities (old age homes) have to be registered with the Department of Social Development. Responsibility is placed on owners of such facilities to ensure they are registered, and most importantly comply with the norms and standards set-out by national legislation.
The Act empowers the Department to play an important oversight role, and monitor the level of care received by older persons at all registered facilities. If any information is received regarding an unregistered facility, the Department immediately acts to make contact with that facility, with the aim of moving it towards compliance.
The Department has a zero tolerance approach towards the abuse and ill-treatment of senior citizens. If any criminal conduct is uncovered through our investigations, the matter will be referred to the South African Police Services for further investigations and prosecution.
A specialist investigator from our NGO partner, Action on Elder Abuse South Africa (AEASA), which works with, and is funded by the department, has been enlisted to thoroughly investigate the Serendipity Old Age Home.
To further protect older persons, Minister Fritz has begun the process of investigating the possibility of establishing a dedicated inspectorate within the Department which would be tasked with not only identifying unregistered facilities throughout the province, but also assess all human rights matters and operational norms and standards at all residential facilities. This inspectorate would report directly to the Minister.
The public can check the department’s website, for a list of registered residential facilities throughout the province, including additional information on service centres which provide key services for older persons. Alternatively, people can check whether a residential facility is registered by contacting any one of our Regional Offices closest to them, or the Department of Social Development Hotline 0800 220 250.
The decision to place a loved one into the care of a residential facility is often a difficult one for any family to make. Thus the Department relies heavily on the public assisting us identify any unregistered facilities, including any cases of alleged abuse of older persons. We can only care for and protect older persons if we work better together.