Money matters


New technology is a wonderful thing. Most of the time. Chip and pin? A fantastic way to improve security for bank cards and accounts. Giros always went missing anyway, much better the ‘direct payment’ with benefits going straight into bank accounts and providing basic bank accounts to ensure ease of access!

These ideas might make sense initially, but having seen the effect of these changing on the day to day lives of older people, particularly those with memory difficulties or mobility difficulties, it has created nothing but headaches and heartaches.

It used to be quite easy with the Giros, a carer could go and pick up the cheque from the post office weekly, maybe doing some shopping on the way back and all is well.

Enter ‘Direct Payment‘ (not Direct PaymentS, mind, that’s another thing entirely!), and you have agencies whose workers are not allowed to be given the PIN numbers for older service users and therefore noone to collect the money or do the shopping. Of course the ease of access for carers has to be balanced against the potential for financial abuse.

Help the aged have done some research on Financial abuse among older people. Personally, I’m surprised that it is the second most common form of abuse in their eyes. From personal experience, it is by far the most common!

It can seem to be an almost impossible balance at times and I’ve certainly felt that I’ve been going round in circles more than once. Banks, of course, quite rightly, insist on speaking to the bank account holder to make any kinds of changes to the account, but when that person is not able to speak on the phone and has poor mobility so is unable to get out and about, it can leave the benefit money trapped in a bank account that can’t be used.

I remember one woman I worked with who was in a similar position. She had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and her Pension, Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance were going directly into her bank account.

Her bank card – well, let’s just say, when the card wasn’t lost, the PIN number was. It is possible to speak to the Benefits Agency directly to have payments revert to Giros but it can take a bit of time. We were also reluctant in this case as there was a husband who spent the Giros down the bookies.

Actually, after lots of telephone calls, we went to a local bank (she had poor mobility but between myself and the carer, we had her pretty much safe.. and it wasn’t very far!). When we got to the bank, well, I don’t think the staff knew quite what to do – but they were incredibly helpful and understanding and because the carer had come with us and she had a regular carer – the bank made an arrangement that that particular carer would be able to withdraw a limited amount of money each week to pay expenses.

It was a good outcome. Very positive and all credit to the bank and the banking staff. Mrs X had a fine time out and about as well! But you see, on the database, well, I couldn’t even log that afternoon as a ‘piece of work’.

And the rapid turnover of carers means that it’s not always to have a regular worker with one person. I wonder how much thought was given to the older population when the changes to the benefits system was made.

PIN numbers will be easy to understand for people who have grown up with them – but the amount of homes I’ve visited that have numbers written on calendars or in wallets, is just, well, I’d say it’s the case more often than not.

I’m not sure what the answer is, the Giro system wasn’t perfect, but at least it allowed some kind of access. In any case, sometimes things that can seem like a wonderful idea until you consider the implications across the board.