In a speech delivered yesterday to the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference, Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) chief executive Anna Bligh said that the Federal Government needed to adopt three key changes as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission last year, following its 2017 report to the Federal Government, Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response. The Commission recommended the establishment of an agency to investigate suspected financial abuse, a national register of power of attorneys, and standardisation of power of attorney legislation.
Currently there is nowhere for bank staff to report suspected cases of financial abuse. Police generally require the customer to make a complaint and then banks are required to make a formal application and provide detailed information about the customer, for example their medical history. The ABA argues that this is not an appropriate role for the bank and Australia needs an appropriate designated organisation where bank staff can report the suspected financial abuse for investigation.
“Bank staff are not qualified to make assessments about a customer’s competency and are limited by legal and confidentiality obligations, therefore it’s important they have an appropriate body to flag suspected abuse for investigation,” says Bligh.
Age Concern New Zealand say changes need to happen in New Zealand as well to address our problem with elder financial abuse.
“Age Concern New Zealand agree that financial abuse needs to have the spotlight put on it, but it needs attention now in New Zealand, Christmas is too far away” says Stephanie Clare, Chief Executive Age Concern New Zealand (pictured).
“Our statistics show over half of the elder abuse cases we see involve financial abuse.
“We are also very concerned that in 75% of our elder abuse cases the alleged abuser is a family member; 50% are either an adult child or grandchild which is not OK,” says Clare.
The New Zealand Bankers’ Association (NZBA) has published guidelines to help banks meet the needs of older and disabled customers. They encourage banks to provide staff training on how to recognise signs of potential financial abuse while being sensitive to customers’ wishes.
NZBA chief executive Karen Scott-Howman says they also suggest banks have internal procedures in place to deal with such cases
“Banks must strike a balance between being vigilant and following instructions from customers about what they want to do with their money,” says Scott-Howman.
Age Concern says there have been several reviews of the Protection of Personal and Property Rights (PPPR) Act with some minor alterations such as to the procedures for applications. However there are further reconsiderations required around more supportive decision making options (rather than the current substitute decision making) as has been developed in Britain.
Age Concern believes more clarification is also required to distinguish between using financial EPOA to operate bank accounts, when they have capacity (but are for example overseas) or only when the donor does not have capacity.
Age Concern supports the establishment of a register of enduring powers of attorney (EPOA) and has put this forward as part of submissions for reviewing the PPPR Act – however, this has not been accepted. Having a register of EPOA would need to distinguish between appointments made and when the EPOA is enacted (by medical certificate or for financial EPOA when stipulated by the donor).
Some of the financial abuse that Age Concern Elder Abuse Services see is from EPOA misusing their role and not following the legislation requirement to “act in the best interest of the donor”.
Common examples of financial elder abuse include:
- Unauthorised taking of money or possessions
- Misuse of powers of attorney
- Failure to repay loans
- Use of home and assets without permission or contributing to costs
- Scams that rely on establishing a relationship with an older person with the intention of exploiting their savings, assets or personal information.