The national association, in conjunction with older persons advocacy groups, is calling on governments to establish a national register of powers of attorney, in an effort to combat elder financial abuse.
The Australian Banking Association (ABA) has teamed up with an array of older persons advocacy groups, including National Seniors Australia and Seniors Rights Service, to push for the state and federal governments to take action on elder financial abuse.
In particular, the aligned groups are calling for the establishment of a national online register of powers of attorney at today’s (29 November) Council of Attorneys General meeting in Adelaide.
The call comes as banks and community advocacy groups released a new guide, designed to assist older people in the avoidance of abuse, scams and fraud, and provide information and support to those who have found themselves a victim of elder financial abuse or fraud.
Speaking at the national release of “Safe and Savvy” guide in Canberra, ABA CEO Anna Bligh said governments need to take decisive action against the growing trend of elder financial abuse, particularly through the establishment of the national powers of attorney register.
“As a coalition of banks and older persons advocacy groups, we are calling on state and federal governments to agree at tomorrow’s council meeting to establish a national online register of powers of attorney to give the tools needed to tackle elder financial abuse,” Ms Bligh said.
“Bank branch staff are often at the front line of this issue, and a national online register will help them check and identify suspected abuse.
She further went on to officially launch the “Safe and Savvy” guide, which she said will be a useful resource in identifying and combating financial abuse against older Australians.
“Today we are launching a new guide, developed by the Commonwealth Bank who have generously shared it with the entire industry, to help tackle the growing problem of financial abuse, fraud and scams against older Australians,” she said.
“This new guide will be another tool for older Australians to protect themselves against being abused, scammer or defrauded.”
Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson commented on the release of the new guide: “It’s important that everyone knows about the signs of elder abuse and that staff who interact with older Australians are trained to respond appropriately where elder abuse is suspected or disclosed.”
“I hope all banks will make this resource available in their branches, and I would encourage older Australians to pick up a copy,” she said.
CEO of Senior Rights Service Russel Westacott highlighted the need for a national register of powers of attorney, due to “inconsistencies” across state lines that can compromise the financial protection of older Australians.
“Too many older people become embroiled in family disputes that arise because of inconsistencies in power of attorney laws.
“We need to act now to ensure families that live in different states and territories have harmonised laws that provide clear and uniform understanding and offer maximum protection to older Australians that cannot be disputed,” he said.
CEO of National Seniors Australia Professor John McCallum agreed that nationalising the power of attorney register will assist in protecting older individuals against abuse.
“Elder abuse isn’t going away, and we will be unable to prevent them without harmonised powers of attorney and central registers across Australia,” he said.
“Moreover, with scams against older Australians becoming more prevalent, this will allow responsible family members to prevent the humiliation and financial losses.”
Ian Yates, CEO of the Council on the Ageing (COTA), said elder financial abuse is “an insidious problem” in Australia, which needs decisive actions from state and federal governments.
“COTA has long supported harmonisation and a national register of powers of attorney, as recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission, and we hope to see this become a reality,” he said.
Bev Lange, executive officer of Elder Abuse Action Australia, said: “[Today] we need action on the issue of a national register as a first step towards harmonisation of power of attorney laws to put the tools into the hands of those on the frontline of tackling this abuse.”
Hannah Dowling is a journalist for The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
Prior to joining Momentum Media, Hannah worked as a content producer for a podcast catering to property investors. She also spent six years working in the real estate sector at a local agency.
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