Action needed by all governments on elder financial abuse

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.

/Public Release. View in full here.