supporting elders fleeing violence in a family context

West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (WCLEAF)

Project Objectives:

A public legal education project – legal information handbook and a workshop curriculum, delivered in person and via webinar – to support front-line responders to provide information on legal issues, including family law, to female elders fleeing abuse in the family context.

Key Partners:

Activities:

  • Developed and provided workshops (in-person and by webinar) “Older Women’s Rights Matter: Providing Better Support with Legal Issues in the Context of Abuse”; focus on legal issues facing older women who are leaving, or considering leaving their homes due to violence.
  • Handbook subject areas include capacity and decision-making rights, powers of attorney and representation agreements, property and pension division, and protection orders.
  • Workshop subject areas also include protection orders and peace bonds; the role of health authorities as designated agencies; an introduction to the role of the public guardian and trustee; revoking powers of attorney and representation agreements; basics of CPP, GIS, and OAS; and other steps to protect property in the context of abuse.

Outcomes:

  • Older women are better resourced to leave abusive relationships.
  • Front-line responders have increased capacity to provide accurate legal information to older women fleeing abuse, and better understand the challenges and legal issues facing diverse older women fleeing abuse.

Tools and Resources:

  • Workshop/webinar – “Older Women’s Rights Matter: Providing Better Support with Legal Issues in the Context of Abuse”.
  • “Roads to Safety: Legal Information for Older Women in BC” legal handbook in plain language in English, available at: www.westcoastleaf.org/roads. Audience: older women fleeing abuse, and reference guide for service providers and community groups.
  • Wallet card – being translated into Arabic, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Filipino (Tagalog), French (Canadian), Hindi, Persian (Farsi), Punjabi, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese, as well as one focussed on services for Indigenous women.

Lessons Learned:

  • Importance of reaching service providers with printed information, written at Grade 4 level, downloadable in pdf format, with information laid out in lists with bullets.  A slogan on resource material (“you are not alone”) was helpful.  Have a two-page spread solely for multilingual emergency information, located prominently at the start of the handbook.
  • Critical to bring together family law, elder law and other areas of law; and the anti-violence sector together with senior-serving organizations and frontline workers to better coordinate.
  • Women need access to more comprehensive resources so that they don’t have to bounce around from one agency to another.
  • To meet the needs of older women who often face the greatest barriers in access to justice, resources must integrate information from the Mental Health Act, laws governing resources on reserve, and immigration law.
  • Need nuance when discussing service providers’ decision to report suspected abuse/neglect or not, barring a legal duty, and need to balance: a) senior’s loss of power with respect to decision-making rights if the abuse is reported by the service provider; and b) the senior may be at greater risk if the service provider does not report.

Challenges:

  • Diversity of the audience requires that resources include a vast amount of information. In future, would like to create a series of pull-out, stand-alone resources for older women and retain the larger legal handbook for service providers.
  • Challenging to determine what each target audience wanted to learn. Next time, will undertake an online survey ahead of time to ascertain desired learnings.
  • The need to speak slowly during webinars to increase accessibility.  An approximate transcript will be provided for those who have hearing challenges.

For Sustainability:

  • The webinar has been recorded and is available for viewing on YouTube, linked via the project website.  The handbook is available for downloading.  The workshop will be offered into the future, if funding is obtained or if a fee is charged. The next scheduled workshop is on July 7th at Options in Surrey.
  • Existence of the handbook has been advertised (through an email blast and social media) to a large number of organizations.
  • A presentation on the project was made at a meeting of the Adult Abuse & Neglect Collaborative, reaching representatives of many of the Health Authorities across BC.
  • The BC Association of Community Response Networks booked West Coast LEAF to present at their online Provincial Learning Event in October 2016.
  • Plan to approach Legal Services Society to distribute print and electronic versions of the booklet, and translate it into additional languages.