Research suggests that the vast majority of cases of financial abuse towards older people are carried out by someone they know - and now a local charity is supporting a campaign in Worcestershire to put this issue firmly under the spotlight.
The Worcestershire Safeguarding Adults Board is dedicating this summer to putting the issue of financial abuse in the public domain. In June a poster campaign was launched highlighting the effects of financial abuse on people with learning or physical disabilities, or those with mental health issues. This month a new campaign, backed by Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire, has been launched which focuses on older people. Called 'This isn't caring, it's a crime' it aims to shine a light on those instances of financial abuse against older people which are perpetrated by someone they know or who looks after them.
A poster has been designed which will be displayed in all three acute hospitals throughout the county, as well as in the community hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies, libraries and Hubs across Worcestershire. It shows someone hugging an older person while subtly and discreetly taking money from their handbag. Sometimes people don't realise what they are doing is actually abuse; for example they might take money given to them by the victim to buy them food or medication, and then use the change for their own means.
The message in the campaign is that despite it often being more subtle and low-level, it is a crime, it is abuse and should be taken seriously.
Philip Talbot, Chief Executive of Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire, said: "Financial abuse is one of the biggest fears older people have, particularly as they become more dependent on other people to look after them. This campaign is about highlighting to professionals and the general public the many forms financial abuse can take; from the more obvious to the more subtle with a clear message being that it's still abuse, it's still a crime and it has a deep effect on victims."
The Worcestershire Safeguarding Adults Board is made up of organisations throughout Worcestershire, including the County Council, Police, Fire and Rescue Service, Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire and local health organisations. Its independent chairman, Pete Morgan, was keen to stress the majority of carers – professional and non-professional – did a fantastic job in often difficult circumstances.
He added: "We recognise that the vast majority of carers, or people who look after a loved one or friend, contribute a huge amount to society and do a great job often under pressure. But it is still important not to hide the fact this does go on, sometimes without even the perpetrator realising what they are doing is actually against the law and constitutes as abuse. It's about professionals and the public being vigilant; we can all spot when someone's being mugged in the street or violently stolen from, but noticing these more discreet examples where people are taking advantage is much harder, which is why this campaign is so important."
More advice and information on financial abuse, including useful contact details should residents have concerns that they or a loved one is being targeted, is available on our website – www.worcestershire.gov.uk/safeguardingadults.
Background Information: Abuse is defined as the violation of an individual's human or civil rights by another person or people. It can take many different forms and examples such as: Physical abuse being hit or restrained, misuse of medication.
Sexual abuse being harassed, teased or being forced to have sex without consent.
Neglect not getting adequate care, food, medication, heating.
Psychological abuse bullying, threats, verbal abuse.
Discriminatory abuse ridicule or threats because of race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation.
Financial abuse theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure to change a will, misappropriation of property and possessions.
Institutional abuse mistreatment by an organisation or individual where care is provided.
If you need advice and guidance regarding the potential abuse of a vulnerable adult (someone over 18 years who might be unable to protect themselves from significant harm or serious exploitation because of a physical or mental disability, age or illness), contact Worcestershire's Access Centre on 0845 607 2000.