New trial to disrupt financial elder abuse

A new collaboration headed up by Victoria Police is bringing together key institutions from the banking, legal, health and aged care sector to combat elder abuse in the community.

The Financial Elder Abuse Trial, currently operating in various rural and metro areas across Victoria, involves police working with community organisations to identify and respond to the financial exploitation of older people.

Today’s announcement coincides with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), acknowledged globally every year on 15 June.

Assistant Commissioner Dean McWhirter said while there has been significant reform in understanding and responding to elder abuse, the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended exploring a trial to investigate financial elder abuse.

“Older Victorians are respected members of our community, but they have potential vulnerabilities that we must consider in order to protect them from harm,” AC McWhirter said.

“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day presents a timely opportunity to raise awareness of elder abuse in all its forms, including financial elder abuse.

“Elder abuse can take various forms such as financial, physical, psychological and sexual. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

“Financial elder abuse is a significant and complex problem that is often hidden.

“We understand that older people may not report elder abuse for a variety of reasons, including fear of getting a family member, who they may rely on for care and companionship, into trouble and not wanting to break up family relationships.”

As part of the trial, police are working in partnership with organisations that interact closely with older people to identify behaviour and activities that may constitute financial elder abuse.

For example, participating agencies identifying a misappropriation of funds of an older person due to financial elder abuse will work with family violence detectives to ensure the victim is supported and given assistance during the police investigation.

If police suspect elder abuse is occurring, they can conduct welfare checks with a support agency. This provides opportunities to intervene in potentially harmful situations and take steps to protect a victim’s assets and support their safety.

“While police have a clear enforcement role in investigating instances of elder abuse, this trial is about intervening early to prevent further or escalating harm, and providing older people with options,” AC Dean McWhirter said.

“By working closely with local organisations, we can build a system to strengthen identification of financial abuse to protect and improve the safety of older Victorians.”

The trial operates in police divisions Morwell, Bendigo, Somerville, Box Hill and Croydon until 2021.

At its conclusion, the trial will be evaluated to determine its success and whether it will be expanded across the state.

If you are concerned about an older person or believe you or they have been a victim of abuse, contact your local police station.

The World Health Organisation defines elder abuse as a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.

For all emergencies and urgent matters, always call Triple Zero (000).

For more information about elder abuse, visit the Victoria Police website.

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