The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Claire Keatinge, has said that the BBC Panorama programme, "Behind Closed Doors: Elderly Care Exposed," which aired on 30/04/14, highlights the need for whistleblowers to have confidence to be able to report on abuse and neglect of vulnerable older people living in residential accommodation.

The Commissioner said:

"The Panorama exposé showed distressing examples of abuse and neglect in one of the largest residential homes in England, and revealed disturbing accounts of vulnerable residents being denied basic rights and dignity by those charged with their care.

"Concerns about care of vulnerable older people is not confined to England, and the programme raises issues which we in Northern Ireland must be alert to in order to prevent any further similar cases here.

"Vulnerable older people must be treated with care, respect and dignity, and they should have confidence and certainty that they will receive the highest standard of care. Residents should be encouraged to live a full and active life, and should be involved in planning and decisions relating to their care.

"I welcome the publication of the OFMDFM consultation on the Active Ageing Strategy, and the inclusion of the "My Home Life Plan," which is a UK-wide social care movement aimed at giving older people in care homes more control over their lives.

"This will help older people living in residential settings live the life they want to live; however there must also be robust mechanisms in place to ensure that any incidences of unacceptable treatment in the care of residents are reported and dealt with swiftly.

"Anyone who has concerns about the care of vulnerable older people, whether they are the older person themselves, family or care staff, must feel able to raise this directly and swift action must follow if unacceptable behaviour is found.

"High quality and regulation of care homes is essential, and as a society, we must ensure the highest level of care is provided. This requires financial investment by the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as greater understanding across society as to the important role which care homes play.

"As an ageing society, it is vital that we ensure that the care of our older population in residential homes is of the highest standard possible, and that older people are afforded their rights and dignity in whatever setting they live."