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Two-thirds of Brits worry about fraud in care homes, survey finds


Sarah Young

Solicitor Sarah Young specialises in cases involving fraud and financial abuse of the elderly

This article appeared in the Daily Mirror on Thursday 27th June 2019 – click here to view

63% of Brits believe elderly people in care homes are at greater risk of financial abuse or exploitation by carers, relatives or friends, than those living in their own home.

But in fact, their concern is misplaced.

The survey of 2,000 adults by law firm Ridley & Hall found that over a third of people (36%) have experienced issues in their elderly relative’s personal affairs. Among those, 10% told of unexplained changes in bank account balances, and 10% said they had discovered that a new acquaintance had suddenly been permitted to make decisions on behalf of their elderly relative.

It’s an issue more people need to be aware of, according to one expect, who says the abuse is sadly most often discovered after the victim has died.

Majority of elder abuse happens at home.

“Despite common perception, an uncomfortable truth is that the majority of financial abuse of the elderly takes place at home, and is very often perpetrated by adult children,” says Sarah Young of Ridley & Hall Solicitors.

Sarah is a solicitor specialising in cases involving fraud and financial abuse of the elderly. She adds: “Victims of financial abuse are very often groomed and betrayed by those closest to them. The very person that they should be able the trust the most, could well be the one to take financial advantage of them.”

In one of Sarah’s legal cases, a son had persuaded his parents to transfer their home, bought with their life savings, into his sole name. He promised them that they would have a home for life with him and would be cared for. But since then, his father has died and he has fallen out with his mum. “The son is now trying to evict his mum, saying that she has lost mental capacity and that he can’t be expected to house her any longer.”

The Ridley & Hall survey was carried out in Spring 2019 and found that a broad range of frauds and abuse appear to be happening:

– 10% have experienced unexplained changes in bank account balances
– 10% have found out about a new friend/acquaintance being permitted to make decisions on their behalf
– 9% have noted an unanticipated transfer of property to a family member or friend
– 9% have noted unexpected changes to a will

“12% of the people in our survey felt they had sufficient concerns to report a suspicion of financial abuse of an elderly relative to the authorities.
And although some concerns may, of course, be unfounded, I fear that financial abuse against the elderly is vastly under reported,” says Sarah Young.

She adds: “Sometimes, this type of abuse becomes apparent during the lifetime of the victim, but it’s more commonly discovered after death when, say, a property that was expected to belong to the deceased is found not to be in their name.

“Financial abuse can be difficult to identify because the relationship between predator and victim may gradually become abusive over a period of time in a way that is not always entirely clear to the two people involved.
To further complicate matters, the abuse typically encompasses a series of transactions rather than being a one off event. Some of the actions of the perpetrator may have been well intentioned, at least to begin with. But the end result is that the victim has usually trusted someone who has betrayed that trust to gain a financial advantage.”

Young people are more worried about financial abuse of the elderly.

The survey found that those aged 25-34 were the most likely to have reported suspicion of financial abuse of an elderly relative to the authorities (43% versus a national average of 12%). One explanation is that they are the most likely age group to have an elderly relative with someone else managing their finances (65% vs a national average of 28%). But it is also not unlikely that some of those under 35 are especially vigilant in order to preserve their inheritance for the future.

Sarah comments: “Our survey suggests that people under 35 may be more willing to ‘call out’ abusive behaviour of an elderly relative. Research also indicates that financial abuse in the UK is particularly perpetrated by adult children. I recently took a call from an adult grandchild who believes that his bullying uncle is going to financially abuse his grandmother by misusing a power of attorney. Sadly, this is a classic area of concern.”

What to do if a relative has been financially abused

The law on financial abuse is complicated and much depends on the circumstances, as Sarah explains: “Anyone concerned that an elderly friend or relative is being scammed or abused should seek specialist legal advice.
The abuse could be complex, depending on whether it involves a property, whether the victim lacks mental capacity, if a power of attorney is involved and so on. In some instances, such as cases of fraud or coercion, criminal remedies may be available. Alternatively, if the victim and the abuser live together, there may be family law remedies available in terms of an injunction or occupation order.”

If you have any concerns about a possible financial abuse claim please contact Sarah Young on sarah.young@ridleyandhall.co.uk or call 0800 860 62 65.

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