Establishing minimum standards for powers of attorney would go a long way towards fighting financial elder abuse, according to the coalition that is pushing for changes and which has welcomed a decision to create a national register.
The coalition, comprising Bauer Media, the Australian Banking Association, the Seniors Rights Service, Elder Abuse Action Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network, National Seniors and the Council on the Ageing, is campaigning for key changes to tackle financial elder abuse.
The enactment of a national register by the Council of Attorneys General is a reform that protects older Australians at risk of elder abuse, says Australian Banking Association chief Anna Bligh.
“[The] decisions by the nation’s attorneys general to establish a mandatory national online register of powers of attorney will empower bank branch staff who are often at the frontline of detection of elder financial abuse,” she said.
“The leadership of the federal attorney general Christian Porter in taking this initiative to [the] Council of Attorneys General meeting was a critical turning point in this campaign.
“A mandatory national online register will help bank staff check to ensure a power of attorney is valid and up to date when a customer comes into a branch to complete transactions on someone else’s behalf.
“The campaign still has a long way to go. We need to see this register established as quickly as possible, completely standardised power of attorney laws across the country and a safe place to report abuse to help tackle elder financial abuse.”
This decision is the first step towards tackling the growing problems faced by many older Australians, but more action is needed, says Bauer Media chief Brendon Hill.
“We welcome the decision made by governments to begin urgently needed reform around elder financial abuse and move to stamp it out. It’s a growing problem faced by many elderly Australians and coordinated action is needed to address it. This is the start of that,” he said.
Age discrimination commissioner Dr Kay Patterson added: “I welcome the progress the attorneys general have made towards developing one power of attorney document. I reiterate my call for the implementation of this initiative before end of July 2021.
“Commitment to a mandatory register for power of attorney documents will be one more measure to reduce the likelihood of financial abuse of older Australians.
“I look forward to ensuring that the advance made at today’s meeting of the attorneys general remains a key priority with defined outcomes,” she said.
Should powers of attorney be ‘qualified’? Or is this bureaucracy gone mad?
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