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What is financial abuse?
Financial abuse is an umbrella term which describes types of mistreatment where someone forcibly controls another person’s money and/ or financial assets. Usually, but not always, that person will be a relative or close friend of the victim.
Financial abuse has been defined by the Department of Health in their guidance issued to local authorities on safeguarding as:
‘financial or material abuse, including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits’
Studies which have been conducted have shown that financial abuse is the second most prevalent type of mistreatment after neglect.
Older people, particularly people with dementia, are among those at greatest risk of financial abuse. Indications are that 60–80 per cent of financial abuse against older people takes place in the home and 15–20 per cent in residential care (Help the Aged 2008).
The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has published a report entitled Commissioning Care Homes: Common Safeguarding Challenges which includes an element on financial abuse. The report is designed for social workers and care givers to highlight the signs of financial abuse and tips on how to prevent it or stop it from continuing.
But if you suspect financial abuse, what are the options available to victims?
The answer to this question is not always straightforward. It may depend on whether the suspected financial abuse has already taken place, or whether you anticipate it may take place and want to take steps to prevent it. The options will also vary depending on whether the victim of the financial abuse has capacity to give instructions to a solicitor.
If you suspect a criminal offence has taken place, you should always report this matter to the police who can investigate matters further.
For more information and guidance, the following links may be useful;
- A Safeguarding Strategy for Recognising, Preventing and Dealing with the Abuse of Older and Vulnerable People, Solicitors For the Elderly;
- The Law Society Practice Note on Financial Abuse;
- The Law Society article ‘Taking Advantage’;
- Office of the Public Guardian, Safeguarding Policy (May 2013).