Action needed by all governments on elder financial abuse

28 November 2019

Australia’s banks along with older persons advocacy groups are calling on state and federal governments to agree to establish a national online register of Powers of Attorney at tomorrow’s Council of Attorneys General meeting in Adelaide.

The renewed call comes as banks release a new guide designed to help older people avoid abuse, scams and fraud, covering issues such as spotting elder financial abuse, how to protect yourself against fraud and where to get advice and support if you find yourself a victim.

Speaking at the launch of the ‘Safe and Savvy’ guide in Canberra, CEO of the Australian Banking Association Anna Bligh said action is needed by governments to tackle the important issue of elder financial abuse.

“As a coalition of banks and older persons advocacy groups we are calling on state and federal governments to agree at tomorrow’s council meeting to establish an national online register of Powers of Attorney to give the tools needed to tackle elder financial abuse,” Ms Bligh said.

“Bank branch staff are often at the front line of this issue and a national online register will help them check and identify suspected abuse.

“Today we are launching a new guide, developed by the Commonwealth Bank who have generously shared it with the entire industry, to help tackle the growing problem of financial abuse, fraud and scams against older Australians. 

“This new guide will be another tool for older Australians to protect themselves against being abused, scammer or defrauded,” she said.

Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson said the Safe and Savvy Guide is a useful resource to help educate older Australians about what they can do to protect themselves from financial abuse, scams and fraud.

“It’s important that everyone knows about the signs of elder abuse and that staff who interact with older Australians are trained to respond appropriately where elder abuse is suspected or disclosed,” Dr Patterson said.

“I hope all banks will make this resource available in their branches and I would encourage older Australians to pick up a copy,” she said.  

CEO of the Seniors Rights Service Russell Westacott said “Too many older people become embroiled in family disputes that arise because of inconsistencies in Power of Attorney laws. We need to act now to ensure families that live in different states and territories have harmonised laws that provide clear and uniform understanding and offer maximum protection to older Australians that cannot be disputed.

CEO of National Seniors Australia Prof John McCallum said “Elder abuse isn’t going away and we will be unable to prevent them without harmonised powers of attorney and central registers across Australia. Moreover, with scams against older Australians becoming more prevalent, this will allow responsible family members to prevent the humiliation and financial losses.”

CEO of the Council on the Ageing Ian Yates said “Elder financial abuse is an insidious problem in this country and one that needs decisive action from Governments at both the state and Federal level.”

“COTA has long supported harmonisation and a national register of Powers of Attorney, as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission, and we hope tomorrow to see this become a reality,” he said.

Bev Lange, Executive Officer of Elder Abuse Action Australia said “Tomorrow we need action on the issue of a national register as a first step towards harmonisation of Power of Attorney Laws to put the tools into the hands of those on the frontline of tackling this abuse.

For a copy of the guide click here.

ENDS

Media Contacts:

Australian Banking AssociationRory Grant 0475 741 007

Age Discrimination Commissioner – Sarah Bamford 0417 957 525

National Seniors Australia – Craig Sullivan 0488 047 380 

COTA – Ian Yates 0418 835 439 or Hannah Craft 0423 377 965

Seniors Rights Service – Jane Schneider 0408 848 362

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