Adult protection legislation and investigations have always had fewer teeth than the equivalent in children’s services. This is something that has niggled me for all the years that I have been responsible for conducting Adult Protection (now called Safeguarding Adults) investigations.
You can find yourself in a situation where harm has been caused and then be powerless to actually do anything about it – or be forced into a situation where you are removing the victim from the perpetrator rather than the other way round – with no police interest or support because the person in question, even though they may lack capacity – has ‘agreed’ to hand over vast amounts of cash. Anyway, that’s perhaps another story for another day.
In the meantime, The Times reports today that a new ‘Safeguarding Adults’ consultation document is being published today.
The article highlights a couple of proposed changes.
Ministers will propose that banks, building societies and the Financial Services Authority monitor the accounts of elderly people for unusual cash withdrawals and direct debits and share information with the authorities where theft or fraud is suspected
I murmured with approval when I read this. Massive issue. Financial abuse is by far the most common type of abuse that I’ve come across. Perhaps because it is so easily done. It is almost always by family and friends. I can recount so many stories, personally witnesses, of how many times this happens. It ceases to be a surprise anymore.
Possibly there are lots of children who use their parents’ bank accounts as extensions of their own banking facilities (without that awkward ‘paying back’ thing). But it’s one thing when your parents know what they are doing and are aware of the likelihood (or not!) of getting the money back and it if they are not, then it’s abuse.
‘Oh but.. ‘ ‘S/He won’t mind’ ‘He always lends me money’ ‘I’ll pay it back’ ‘S/He doesn’t need it as much as me’ ‘I’ll inherit it anyway’ (yes, I’ve heard that defence… ).
Information from the banks directly would be wonderful. Not least because it could help to secure prosecution if necessary and also would help to alert us to those, particularly with dementia, who begin to empty their own bank accounts by making unusual withdrawals on a daily basis (currently I am working with a woman who had been withdrawing £150 per day from her account and lending it to a ‘friend’ who meets her outside the bank).
Interestingly the Times points out that
Tens of millions of pounds of life savings, possessions and homes were stolen from elderly people last year by their own families, according to a leading charity, which carried out research last year.
The cases range from cash being taken from a purse to the proceeds of house sales being diverted into a relative’s account without the elderly owner’s knowledge. The problem could get worse as more elderly people are given cash to pay for the care they need in their own homes under the Government’s personal budgets programme.
As with most abusive scenarios, it is most likely to come from within the family.
On that basis, it is unsurprising (for me, anyway) that
Another proposal in today’s report could lead to social workers being given powers to check up on how older people are being looked after in their own home with the help of their children. However, it makes clear that ministers will not extend to elderly people the present child-protection policies, which include a statutory duty on all agencies to share information if maltreatment is suspected.
The report speaks of “a recognition that a more flexible approach is required”. That was criticised by local authorities and campaigners who want similar laws. Although older people in residential homes and those who receive support from care workers in their own homes are partly protected by law, those cared for by a family member, friend or neighbours are not protected at all.
I don’t know what it is about adult protection or protection of vulnerable older people that somehow doesn’t seem to push the ‘right’ buttons. Surely if another human being is vulnerable and needs protection, it should not matter whether they are 8 or 80? Even animals have more legal rights to protection currently than older people.
I am thinking back to one situation I was faced with where a crime had been committed against an older woman by her son. There was no doubt – the police were involved from the outset. No prosecution was possible because she could not be presented as a ‘viable’ witness in court.
It still angers me.
Trying to be positive though, at least some more teeth might be added to the current systems.