Steps to help stop elder financial abuse
15 June 2022
As organisations around the globe recognise World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the ABA has called upon Federal and State Australian governments to work together to combat the ongoing problem of elder financial abuse.
ABA Chief Executive Anna Bligh said that this important global initiative was a chance to reinforce with all governments the key actions required to tackle this issue.
“Unfortunately, as many as ten per cent of older Australians experience abuse, whether it be financial, legal, emotional, physical or neglect,” Ms Bligh said today.
“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day provides a platform for our Federal and State Attorneys-General here in Australia to commit to a timeline to deliver reforms that will help protect older Australians from financial abuse.
“Specifically, we are urging governments to implement the 2017 Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) recommendations from the inquiry into elder abuse, across three key areas:
- “Firstly, to agree to nationally consistent laws governing enduring powers of attorney (EPOA), including financial, medical, and personal instruments
- “Secondly, to establish a national register of power of attorney instruments
- “Thirdly, to designate a body to receive and investigate reports on suspected cases of abuse in each state and territory jurisdiction.
“After five years of inaction, better protection of older Australians is well overdue. 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.ABA CEO Anna Bligh
“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.
“It’s time for all Federal and State Attorneys-General to stop dithering and make their protection a priority.”
Australian banks themselves have put in place several initiatives to assist with the prevention of elder abuse. These include:
- developing an industry guideline to prevent and respond 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 Australian Human Rights Commission has also developed a range of collateral including bookmarks and posters in 20 languages to raise awareness, available via www.humanrights.gov.au/elderabuse.
An average of $3.2 billion was lent to small business in the second half of 2021, up 24% from the $2.6 billion in the second half of 2020.