Older people suffer financial abuse in silence – Bankwest

This as one in seven West Aussies commit financial abuse

Older people suffer financial abuse in silence – Bankwest


By Mina Martin

One in seven Western Australians are perpetrating financial abuse, while many older people remain silent out of fear, due in part to a lack of understanding of financial abuse.

This was according to Bankwest’s Hidden Cost research, which was released in observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15. With the theme, “Wise Up, Rise Up Against Elder Abuse,” this year’s WEAAD challenged people to educate themselves on the signs and impacts of elder abuse and to take action to protect older people in their community.

Elder financial abuse involves someone using or stealing an older person’s money or financial assets for their personal use, which can adversely impact the health, wellbeing, and independence of older people.

The latest Bankwest report showed that 33% of Western Australians had experienced financial abuse, while 29% knew someone else who had, with people aged 50 and older accounting for 32.5% of the victims.

The data also revealed that many older Australians have not sought help when experiencing financial abuse, with 23% of those 65-and-older keeping mum and 70% saying it would be hard to seek help.

The main reasons hindering older Australians from seeking support for financial abuse were around the consequences for doing so, with 74% worried the perpetrator would discover, and 81% fearing retaliation.

Worryingly, despite 64% of West Australians saying they could identify financial abuse, when presented with the definition, 15% admitted to being perpetrators. Of the one in seven committing financial abuse, 53% were unaware they were doing so.

Advocare CEO Louise Forster (pictured above left) stressed the importance of being able to spot the signs of financial abuse – and being able to do something to end it.

“Behaviours can start out insidious – such as someone using their caring commitments as justification for using their parent’s money to go shopping – but can easily escalate,” Forster said.

“We see many cases of family members financially abusing older relatives, often to the extent of homelessness and dispossession, and it’s important older people understand their rights and how to ensure they are exercised.

“Stigma, shame, and fear of retribution often prevent older people from speaking up, and that is one of the critical services Advocare delivers, providing a confidential and safe avenue through which older people can seek support.”

Bankwest COO Louise Tovey (pictured above right) said it is the responsibility of Bankwest and other financial institutions to help raise awareness of – and stamp out – financial abuse.

“Financial institutions can often be among the first contacted by someone experiencing this kind of abuse and our colleagues often witness first-hand the devastating effect it can have on people’s lives,” Tovey said.

“Despite its prevalence, financial abuse can be difficult to recognise and, as the Hidden Costs Report has shown, a concerning number of Western Australians are perpetrating the abuse without even realising it.”

The bank provides customers and the community support in seeking information and support via Bankwest’s Financial Abuse Hub, which connects to services such as 1800RESPECT.

How is your organisation helping stamp out financial abuse? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

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