Elder abuse action sought

National Seniors Australia has joined forces with the Australian Banking Association, the Council on the Ageing and Legal Aid to tackle financial elder abuse.

Interim CEO Professor John McCallum said today the group was calling for an online register of power of attorney orders and a dedicated body to crack down on financial abuse of the elderly.

It also wanted standardised power-of-attorney laws across Australia.

National Seniors was a signatory to a joint letter sent to every state and federal attorney-general calling on them to take decisive action at the COAG meeting tomorrow.

Prof. McCallum said about five per cent of older Australians were subjected to financial abuse.

“It’s a heartbreaking situation and banking staff often see firsthand elderly people being taken advantage of by trusted family, friends and carers,” Prof. McCallum said.

“As a society, we can and need to do more to support older people who are being exploited in this way.

“We welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement in February to progress a national plan for elder abuse and their budget commitment in May of $22 million over five years to standardise power of attorney orders.

“But we also need a designated organisation in each jurisdiction where bank staff can be supported to safely report suspected financial abuse for investigation.

“At the moment, police generally require the customer to make a complaint. Apart from the Queensland Public Advocacy Offices, other states and territories often require the bank to make a formal application providing detailed information about the customer, for example their medical history. This is not an appropriate role for the banks.”

Prof. McCallum said the group had called on the state and territory attorney-generals to adopt the Queensland model, where the Office of the Public Guardian has the power to investigate allegations that an adult had been neglected, exploited or abused.

“We are seeking the active participation of all governments and stakeholders to achieve meaningful progress in this area to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” Prof. McCallum said.

“The exact incidence of elder abuse is difficult to come by as it happens within private homes and is often unreported because of embarrassment or unpleasant family dynamics.

“But we do know that as a community, we can do more to prevent this type of abuse, which is why National Seniors is part of this campaign and why we’re calling on the attorney-generals to take action.”

Watch a video featuring ABA chief executive Anna Bligh and Prof. John McCallum below. If you can't see the video, click here to watch it on YouTube.

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