Game on for money grubs

State government launches draft elder abuse prevention strategy

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GOING IN TO BAT: Advocare chief executive Diedre Timms, Minister for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Simone McGurk and Bankwest chief operating officer for personal and business banking Shari Cosgriff.

GOING IN TO BAT: Advocare chief executive Diedre Timms, Minister for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Simone McGurk and Bankwest chief operating officer for personal and business banking Shari Cosgriff.

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Seniors urged to look at the strategy to understand the extent of problem.

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THE WA government has launched its draft elder abuse prevention strategy and announced it will partner with Bankwest to combat financial elder abuse.

Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse, according to the strategy, which is out for public comment until July 24.

Simone McGurk, the Minister for Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, called on stakeholders, service providers and individuals to make their views known.

"We all have a role to play to protect elders in our community to understand how elder abuse manifests and to understand what rights people have and how to access information," she said.

"I urge anyone interested in this issue to look at the strategy and understand the extent of the problem."

The Bankwest roundtable will bring together financial institutions, government and other concerned parties to develop approaches to address financial elder abuse.

Shari Cosgriff, chief operating officer of Bankwest's personal and business banking division, said financial abuse accounted for a third of all reported cases of abuse.

"It's really a mistake to think that this can't happen to you or somebody you love," she said.

"In our branches and contact centres you can sometimes hear children or carers in the background giving instructions to older people on the handling of their money.

"When a person comes into a bank and their banking habits change, we train our staff to identify that."

Ms Cosgriff said transactions are blocked when abuse is suspected.

"In the last month alone, I can cite 10 different examples of where we have prevented crime occurring, with sums ranging from as little as $1000 up to $800,000."

Diedre Timms, the chief executive of Advocare, which runs the WA Elder Abuse Helpline, said it was important to get into the action phase of tackling the issue.

"There is a real urgency to this work because older people will die before we get this right," Ms Timms said.

"There are a lot of people who are very reliant on the family members who are committing the abuse.

"The financial abuse has been from "I have got Mum's card, I'm going to do the shopping, I'll just have $20 for myself", to 'Look, Mum, I think it's time you sold the house and moved in with us'.

"Then the family sells the house and Mum is left with nothing as there is no arrangement in place. We really encourage people to document their arrangements.

"There is a lot of emotional abuse which goes with financial abuse - 'If you don't give me this $10,000, I'm not going to bring the grandchildren around'.

"I have heard of circumstances where the phone has been put out of reach of the older person because it cuts them off from their networks and cuts them off from their supports so they can't ring someone."

Ms Timms said that when the helpline received anonymous calls, it doesn't pressure people to provide their name or data. "If we can give them information that will help them, we are really pleased to do that."

She said some people will ring multiple times as they understand the situation more and understand they can do something.

"It's really urgent we do something. Raising awareness is incredibly important. We need to address ageism in our society and start addressing older people with the respect they deserve."

To comment visit communities.wa.gov.au/elderabuse or call 6381-2323

WA Elder Abuse Helpline, 1300-724-679.

READ MORE:How to stop elder financial abuse at the hands of loved ones

READ MORE:Victims and witnesses more willing to report elder abuse: Minister

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