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Call for Governments to commit to reforms to prevent elder abuse

14 February 2022

Australian Banking Association (ABA) Chief Executive the Hon Anna Bligh AC has again called on federal and state governments to implement three key actions to help combat financial abuse of the elderly.

The call comes as advocates, policy makers, community groups and business organisations gather in Hobart as they work towards eradicating elder abuse. As many as 10 per cent of older Australians experience abuse, whether it be financial, legal, emotional, physical or neglect.

“What we are calling for today is for federal and state Attorneys-General to commit to a timeline to deliver reforms that will ensure older Australians are protected from financial abuse” said ABA CEO Anna Bligh.

Recommendations

The ABA and the Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson AO, urge Attorneys-General to implement the 2017 Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) recommendations from the inquiry into elder abuse:

  1. agree to nationally consistent laws governing enduring powers of attorney (EPOA), including financial, medical, and personal
  2. establish a national register of power of attorney instruments
  3. designate a body to receive and investigate reports on suspected cases of abuse in each state and territory jurisdiction. While some states have systems in place, there is no uniform approach to reporting suspected financial abuse and the abuse is not investigated or acted upon.

“Banks have put in place a number of initiatives to assist with the prevention of elder abuse including the development of an industry guideline preventing and responding to financial abuse (including elder financial abuse), training staff to recognise red flags on transactions and providing digital tools and systems to help customers manage accounts, such as ‘two to sign’ arrangements, pre-set digital and card limits and transaction notifications.

“The complexity created by the lack of harmonisation of laws between jurisdictions remains a significant barrier to real progress. The effect of it is confusion for older people and their attorneys, unnecessary complexity for banks and other entities required to act on the EPOA, and it creates a system that contributes to financial abuse.


“Our elderly Australians have worked hard over many years and deserve to live out their later years with dignity, respect and financial independence.”

ABA CEO Anna Bligh

Ms Bligh’s calls were echoed by Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson. “Elder abuse is everyone’s responsibility, and this conference provides an important platform for us to share knowledge, exchange best practices and cultivate ideas about how we can work together to ensure older Australians can live their later years free from psychological, financial and all other forms of abuse,” Dr Patterson said.

“The Australian Banking Association and I have worked closely together to put this issue on the agenda in recent years, particularly calling on the Attorneys-General across Australia to harmonise powers of attorney which will have the effect of reducing the likelihood of financial elder abuse.”

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