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Lack of consistency in understanding elder financial abuse: UNSW

by snichols11 minute read
Lack of consistency in understanding elder financial abuse: UNSW

The intersection of domestic and family violence with financial abuse among the elderly is poorly understood, according to a new report.

The paper, titled Understanding Economic and Financial Abuse and Older People in the Context of Domestic and Family Violence, is the fifth of its kind published by UNSW’s Gendered Violence Research Network, and was funded by the Commonwealth Bank.

Reviewing both academic and policy literature from across the world as a means to better understand the research of economic and financial abuse among older people, the researchers noted that there are knowledge gaps between interpretations of domestic and family violence and elder abuse. 

“Australian literature uses several definitions of economic and financial abuse of older people, but these definitions are often not specific to domestic and family violence,” the report stated. 


“Economic and financial abuse is commonly defined as the exploitation of the older person’s resources, usually by someone in a position of trust.”

Other issues the paper flagged were varying definitions of “older people”, as well as limited quantitative data examining economic and financial abuse against older people within the context of domestic and family violence. 

The researchers also noted that domestic and family violence among older Australians can be subsumed under the category of elder abuse. 

Speaking of the paper, the co-convenor of the Gendered Violence Research Network, Professor Jan Breckenridge, commented that this lack of consistent definition can “drastically impact service providing spaces and create barriers for victim-survivors seeking help”. 

The report also noted that there was evidence that traditionally gendered financial management may facilitate economic and financial abuse against older people, that power of attorney “could be misused to prepertate economic and financial abuse”, and that economic and financial abuse against older people co-occurred with a range of other forms of violence and abuse.

As for prevention, the UNSW paper said that better training for legal and health professionals, formal regulations around transactions with families, as well as both further research and deepened definitions were some potential directions moving forward. 

However, the researchers also noted that barriers do exist for the providers who respond to this form of financial abuse, including a reluctance to come forward from victims and a lack of resources. 

Earlier this week, the FBAA flagged that brokers should educate themselves on how to recognise elder financial abuse of older people in clients.

“Financial institutions have a key role to play in identifying and responding to economic and financial abuse of older people perpetrated in the context of domestic family violence,” Ms Breckenridge said. 

CBA’s executive manager of community investment, Claire Dawson, added that the bank knows that this form of financial abuse is prevalent and can have a “devastating impact on family relationships”. 

“This report is an important step in developing our understanding of this issue, and ensuring we continue to provide the right support for anyone impacted by elder financial abuse in the context of domestic and family violence,” Ms Dawson said. 

You can refer clients to get free confidential advice from a financial counsellor by calling the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 between 9.30am and 4.30pm.

[Related: Brokers urged to 'watch out for' financial abuse in clients]

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Sam Nichols is a journalist at The Adviser and Mortgage Business.


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