Care Talk – Understanding Financial Abuse Within the Safeguarding Sphere

Topics covered: adult safeguarding

A highly common safeguarding challenge within a care home is financial abuse. It has been a subject of news reports this year and remains a critical one within the media, Government and CQC. As a result, it is essential that care workers are alert to the types of financial abuse within a care home, so to report any safeguarding issue. Either to their manager or to the Local Authority Safeguarding Team.

Data collected from a freedom of information (FOI) request to the CQC has prompted health and social care experts to call for a Government inquiry into the scale of the issue. The FOI request was made after news that care home managers have reported almost 13,000 concerns that residents were experiencing financial abuse, in the past four years. Plus, that there were 12,968 investigations of potential financial abuse by the CQC between 2013 and June 2017.

A study into the abuse of older people in the UK (O’Keeffe et al. 2007) found that financial abuse is the second most widespread type of mistreatment after neglect.

Care workers will know that abuse within a care home setting can mean physical abuse, domestic abuse (including psychological and emotional abuse), psychological abuse (including humiliating, isolating and bullying someone – either in person or online), financial abuse (stealing someone’s possessions or misusing or coercing someone into a financial arrangement), sexual abuse and discriminatory abuse.

Section 41(3) of the Care Act 2014 defines financial abuse as:

(a)          having money or other property stolen,

(b)          being defrauded,

(c)           being put under pressure in relation to money or other property, and

(d)          having money or other property misused.

Given the vulnerability of older people, particularly those with dementia, they are at greater risk of abuse, and particularly financial. Statistics have shown that 60-80 per cent of financial abuse against older people takes place within care homes. This is because residents have little to no control over their own money. They are reliant on their relatives or the home to protect their finances.

It is essential that care workers are aware of the different types of financial abuse and know that this is a prevalent problem. CQC will be hot on providers not reporting incidents of this type of abuse, given the recent media and government attention.

The main examples of financial abuse that care workers need to be aware of are:-

  • an appointed deputy not managing the residents’ finances in their best interest;
  • an inappropriate gift or reward being given to a care worker;
  • the home using resident’s own money to pay for things for the home without the person’s agreement;
  • a relative receiving benefits on the person’s behalf but not passing on the personal allowance
  • unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts;
  • lack of amenities that the person should be able to afford;
  • the unexplained disappearance of valuable possessions;
  • abrupt changes to or the sudden establishment of wills;
  • the inclusion of another person’s name on the bank account;

Care workers must report any concerns about deputies and appointees so that best interest meetings can take place. When the local authority receives an alert, it can apply to have the deputyship or appointeeship revoked and awarded to the local authority deputy.

The above list is not exhaustive. If care workers have any concerns, they should always report to their senior manager and, if in any doubt, seek advice from the safeguarding unit of their local council. The latter situation might arise if the care worker perceives the apparent abuse to be orchestrated by their managers at any level.

Internal disclosures to senior managers will be protected in certain circumstances, under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, if the disclosure of information is in the public interest. The whistle-blower must have reasonable belief that the information tends to show that the malpractice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.

Ridouts are highly experienced in safeguarding matters. Do not hesitate to contact us should you have any legal safeguarding queries.

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