National plan to address elder abuse

National Seniors has welcomed Attorney-General Christian Porter’s announcement to develop a national plan by the end of 2018 to address the growing issue of financial, emotional and physical abuse of older people.

Mr Porter told the fifth National Elder Abuse Conference in Sydney this week the Commonwealth and state ­attorneys-general had agreed to work together in response to a report by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).

The government would develop a national definition of elder abuse to better guide research and develop survey tools to measure abuse rates of older people, he said.

"This is a key first step in bringing government, business and community stakeholders together to properly address this critical issue.

"Australia has an ageing population, with the proportion of Australians aged 65 or over rising from 15 per cent of the population in 2014-15 to 23 per cent by 2055 and there is no doubt that, as a community, we need to address the risk of abuse that faces people as they age."

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus told the conference he was pleased Mr Porter was making elder abuse a priority.

“In Australia, where cost of living pressures and inaccessibility to affordable housing are pronounced, there exists a social environment in which elder abuse is likely to become more prevalent,” Mr Dreyfus said. 

National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said he was very pleased by the bipartisan approach to combatting elder abuse.

“This is too big an issue to become a political football,” Mr Henschke said.

“It is an important step towards a national approach to this growing issue.”

Mr Henschke, who attended the conference on behalf of National Seniors and the strategy workshop to help develop the national plan, said what is becoming known as ‘inheritance impatience’ is driving a lot of financial abuse in Australia.

Australian Bankers Association chief executive officer, Anna Bligh, told the conference three key decisions needed to be made by the Federal Government to empower banks to help address the issue of elderly financial abuse.

“Bank staff are on the frontline of this issue and see firsthand the financial abuse against the elderly, however, are often hamstrung to confront the issue,” Ms Bligh said.

She called for the following legislative changes, as recommended last year by the Australian Law Reform Commission:

  • Legal changes to help bank employees safely report suspected financial abuse to a designated body
  • A national register of powers of attorney  
  • A standardisation of power of attorney legislation. 

To read a copy of the ALRC report, click here

National Seniors members who are concerned they, or a loved one, may be subject to financial elder abuse can call the Financial Information Desk (FID) on 1300 020 110 or email fid@nationalseniors.com.au

Age Discrimination Commissioner Kay Patterson was also at the conference and was also pleased action has been taken.

Listen to our Chief Advocate Ian Henschke on ABC Brisbane Breakfast this morning with Craig Zonca and Rebecca Levingston here. Bill Shorten was also on this morning's program. Listen to his response to some of Ian's comments here.

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