Communications: Campaign of the week - TV drama breaks elder abusetaboo

Comic Relief has created a TV drama called Dad to draw attention to the problem of elder abuse. The film will be screened in an evening slot on BBC1, two weeks before Red Nose Day on 11 March.

After relying on documentaries for 20 years, Dad represents the charity's first foray into scripted drama to convey how the millions of pounds donated by the public are spent.

The one-off, 90-minute film stars Richard Briers in the title role with Kevin Whatley as his son. The plot revolves around how parents become dependent on their children as they grow older and raises the issue of elder abuse both in residential care homes and within the family. It also addresses physical and mental abuse, as well as neglect.

Kevin Cahill, Comic Relief chief executive, says: "Harnessing creativity to raise awareness and promote action on social issues is our stock-in-trade. To be able to use drama in this way is an exciting development for us."

The charity has had the idea of making a drama for a while, but it was waiting for the right project.

The film was written by Lucy Gannon, whose credits include ITV drama series Soldier, Soldier. The charity took advice from Action on Elder Abuse, Age Concern, Help the Aged and the Prevention of Professional Abuse Network (Popan) before making the film.

"Behind the closed doors of residential homes, care homes and private houses, hundreds of older people are abused every day," said Gordon Lishman, director- general of Age Concern England. "Comic Relief will be helping to shine light into some of the darkest spaces in our society."

Richard Curtis, Comic Relief co-founder, hopes the film will make people think. "Like child abuse and domestic abuse, the taboo surrounding elder abuse has to be broken," he insists.

Comic Relief is funding temporary hotline staff at the main older people's charities in anticipation of a flood of calls referred by the BBC's Action Line, the number for which will be given out after the film.

The charity will portray the subject in more traditional ways during the seven-hour telethon on 11 March.

See News, p9.

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