Action on Elder Abuse
What is Elder Abuse?
On our helpline at The National Careline, we get many calls from very distressed people who are either calling about themselves, their mother/father or other close relative about the actions being done by someone to another person. This is usually a family member to another one but it can be a person such as a neighbour who is distressed by the way an older person they know is being abused and wants to report it.
The term “Elder Abuse” has been adopted by many bodies including the World Health Organisation and other notable organisations and countries and is established to mean
- ‘A single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person'.
Because the core of the definition is an 'expectation of trust' that an older person may rightly establish with another person, but which is subsequently violated, it mostly takes the form of abuse which happens within families and those within close relationships. It doesn’t usually happen with strangers unless those strangers have also abused the older person’s 'expectation of trust' and thus also become a source of elder abuse.
Safeguarding Adult Boards(SABs)
These became a statutory requirement under the Care Act (2014) in all local authority Social Services. They bring together other safeguarding partners such as police, health and housing and are critical in taking the lead to respond to adult safeguarding cases in their areas. They have done, and continue to do, significant work on investigating financial abuse but, with the most common place that financial abuse taking place is in the home by family members* (43.8%, Safeguarding Adults Collection (SAC) 2019-2022); more work needs to be done within SABs to ensure that cases of theft and fraud are investigated properly by their teams.
Elder Abuse is a crime against the members of one of our most vulnerable sections of society. So if you feel that someone is being financially, physically or mentally abused then it is important that you contact their local council and report it to the Adult Safeguarding Unit in their Social Services and to the Police.
Some of the worse elder abuse is perpetrated against women who have been made the attorney and find that male members of their family are not comfortable with this and make things difficult to carry out their duties as attorney properly.
More research and work is needed to ensure that this particular type of abuse is thoroughly investigated as the victims are often very reluctant to report members of their own family.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005
It is important for anyone acting as an attorney or deputy to remember is that any decisions made for the person must be made whilst adhering to the five statutory principles of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005. These are:
- Every adult has the right to make his or her own decisions and must be assumed to have capacity to make them unless it is proved otherwise.
- A person must be given all practicable help before anyone treats them as not being able to make their own decisions.
- Just because an individual makes what might be seen as an unwise decision, they should not be treated as lacking capacity to make that decision.
- Anything done or any decision made on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done in their best interests.
- Anything done for or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity should be the least restrictive of their basic rights and freedoms.
On the helpline, we take calls from people who are either the victims of elder abuse or they know of someone who is suffering from someone’s abusive behaviour towards them or someone they know of, and they want to know how to report it.
The abuse can be physical or, more often mental and is usually towards people who can no longer defend themselves.
It often starts when a person is finding it difficult to cope with living on their own anymore and the offer of help from a relative or friend to move in and provide the necessary care so that the person can remain in their own home rather than going into care seems an ideal solution.
In most cases this is a very good arrangement however it can go very wrong with the helper taking steps to isolate the victim from other members of their family. They will do this by telling family members that the person doesn’t want to see them anymore or other blocking tactics with the intention of keeping other relatives and friends at a distance so that they cannot see the victim and report the abuse that is going on.
This member of the family will then use controlling behaviours to persuade their victim that is would be a good idea to give them a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
From here, it is just a short progression into the victim having their money stolen from their accounts, without their permission and without any other family members knowing what has happened. Left unchecked, this can progress to the point that the victim’s future financial security is threatened. If they are already in care, this is where the Social Services must step in to stop the person being evicted.
This is just a small part of what we hear on The National Careline Helpline and the financial cost to the individual, to the teams investigating the crimes and to taxpayers picking up the bill are just a part of widespread theft and fraud within families in Britain today.
So, what can we do? What should we do?
The thing we should remember that if we are not part of the solution we are by default, part of the problem. We all need to be aware of the problem and should never stand by and let abuse take place without reporting the circumstances to the relevant authorities.
We need to work responsibly towards a society where older people and their rights are respected and to raise awareness in practitioners working in this field so that they can act appropriately when circumstances of abuse and coercion occur.
If you are worried about a family member and suspect that something is amiss but need to find out more, do contact us on our helpline number 0800 0699 784, as we can often help by using the appropriate channels.
In all cases contact the Office of the Public Guardian if you have concerns about an attorney, deputy or a decision they've made for someone else. For example: the misuse of a person’s money, decisions made that aren't in the best interests of the person they're responsible for or any criminal activity.
Telephone: 0300 456 0300
Textphone: 0115 934 2778
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (except Wednesday) - Wednesday 10am to 5pm
The Office of the Public Guardian can help if there is a registered lasting power of attorney, a registered enduring power of attorney or a court order.
If one of these isn't in place, you may have to contact:
- the Department for Work and Pensions for concerns about benefits
- your local adult social services for concerns about care or safeguarding
- your local police if you think someone is not in immediate danger but the attorney has committed a criminal offence
Call 999 if someone is in immediate danger.