Banks’ fresh push on elder abuse

The cynics among us might say the banks’ latest campaign push is a bid to buff their tarnished image in the wake of the financial services royal commission.

However … for the rest of population, the banking association is renewing its efforts to expose and contain financial elder abuse.

With more older Australians with money in the kitty courtesy of compulsory superannuation, Australian Banking Association (ABA) chief executive Anna Bligh has called on the Federal Government to establish a new service to protect older Australians from financial abuse.

In the YourLifeChoices 2019 Ensuring Financial Security in Retirement survey, almost 37 per cent of the 3380 respondents said that leaving an inheritance was either important or very important. However, it seems that many intended recipients can’t get their inheritance soon enough.

Ms Bligh says that “inheritance impatience” is one of the most prevalent forms of financial abuse across Australia.

“Bank staff have told me stories of attempting to intervene in situations where they see money drained out of the accounts of pensioners, often for items … such as holidays or expensive jewellery, but the victim is unwilling or unable to report what is really happening,” she told The Age.

“The growing problem of elder financial abuse in our community is an uncomfortable truth that every Australian should be aware of.”

The ABA reports that six in 10 Australians are worried that someone they know will be the victim of financial elder abuse and that 87 per cent of Australians want the Government to do more to stop it. It attributes the prevalence of elder abuse to increased house prices and reasonable superannuation balances.

“This can lead to family members feeling a sense of entitlement, with some people referring to it as inheritance impatience,” says the ABA.

The ABA wants a national online register of power of attorney orders as well as a designated body in each state and territory to report financial elder abuse.

The Federal Government announced funding for an online register in its May budget.

Seniors Rights Service chief executive Russell Westacott told The Age that an overwhelming majority of cases it sees are based around financial elder abuse.

“Every year, we see 650 presentations of people experiencing elder abuse, which means every day our doors are open we see at least two or three people,” he said.

“Of these, most people report financial abuse and they carry the shame that it has been perpetrated, most often, by a son, daughter or grandchild.

“This abuse is unacceptable. We need to stop it.”

The ABA wants concerned individuals to sign its petition or contact their state, territory or federal attorney-general to seek key changes to better recognise, report and prevent financial elder abuse.

It describes financial elder abuse as:

  • Spending money without permission, forging signatures, coercing someone to sign something, pension-skimming, using a person’s bank account or credit card without their consent, denying a person access to their money or bank statements.
  • A loan that is never paid back.
  • Threatening or pressuring an older person to invest in something on their behalf.
  • Making someone provide care or other services without being paid or fairly compensated.
  • An expectation to pay someone’s expenses.
  • Pressures, tricks or threats to get someone to change a will, power of attorney or other legal arrangements.
  • Coercing a person to go guarantor on a loan.

Does financial elder abuse concern you? How would you deal with the problem if it happened to you? Do you support the ABA’s campaign?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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