Select Committee on Health Second Report

6  Financial abuse

77. AEA identified financial abuse as the second most frequent category of abuse, from its analysis of helpline calls.[63] It noted: "Of all calls to the helpline regarding financial abuse, the misuse of unregistered powers of attorney[64] continues to be one of the greatest concerns expressed." Although, as the Institute of Gerontology, King's College London stated, there is little research on financial abuse in its own right "such evidence as there is suggests that it may be more of a problem than is recognised; that it is more likely to be perpetrated by more distant relatives or paid carers and that older people living on their own and suffering from dementia are most at risk."[65]

78. A further indicator of the high prevalence of financial abuse is contained in the submission from the Bromley Adult Protection Committee. whose services manager is a joint appointment between social services and the primary care trust. This states that the two main areas of concern are financial abuse of older people living alone and physical abuse of older people in care settings.[66]

79. The Oxfordshire Social and Health Care Directorate reported to us data relating to "concerns, disclosures or allegations" reported to its Vulnerable Adult Protection Worker for the period 1 January to 30 September 2003. These figures were disturbing: financial abuse was identified in 88% of reported cases of multiple abuse by family members but in only 8% of such cases by paid staff.[67]

80. Measures which may well serve to strengthen the protection of older people in cases of financial abuse are contained in the Mental Incapacity Bill, which has been published in draft, and has been subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons.

81. The draft bill contains proposals to reform the decision-making process for those aged 16 and over who are unable to make decisions for themselves. Proposals in the draft bill would extend the present enduring powers of attorney to a new lasting power of attorney, which will include decisions on welfare and healthcare as well as financial management. The Joint Committee received disturbing evidence indicating serious abuse of financial powers under the present enduring powers of attorney which it was determined the bill must strive to curb. Stricter safeguards would be needed and those who acted under these powers would need clear guidance on what is involved and be required to keep adequate records of financial transactions. The draft Bill also proposes the introduction of a new Court of Protection: a more accessible single jurisdiction with powers and authority akin to those of the High Court.

82. We recommend that the prevention, detection and remedying of financial abuse should be included as specific areas of policy development by adult protection committees.

83. We endorse the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill[68] relating to Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA). The Joint Committee recommend:

·  that the Bill should make clear whether it is intended that personal welfare decisions, excluding those relating to medical treatment, may be taken when a donor retains capacity. Further, clarification of the extent and limitation of the powers, as well as adequate guidance and training for donees, are also strongly recommended;

·  that, whilst individuals should have freedom to choose their donee(s) when making an LPA, further guidance should be provided to warn donors of the potential for conflict. Furthermore, an additional safeguard should be included in Codes of Practice as a mechanism by which the Court of Protection or the Public Guardian could monitor the use of LPAs with a view to preventing the abuse and exploitation of a donee's powers;

·  an express duty of care should be incorporated into the draft Bill in respect of donees acting under an LPA (and for Court Appointed Deputies). A greater degree of accountability should be required from those groups in order to limit the potential for abuse of their powers and effective methods should be explored to achieve that end. In particular, specific requirements in the form of a standard of conduct should be included in the Codes of Practice, aimed at those exercising formal powers under the draft Bill;

·  donees should be placed under an obligation to notify both the donor and the Public Guardian that the donor is, or is becoming incapacitated, thereby putting this information on the public record and opening it up to challenge. Guidance should be provided to assist financial institutions to deal with the operational realities of LPAs; and

·  the additional safeguard of requiring two additional persons to witness the certification of capacity should be included where there are no named persons for notification of the registration of an LPA.[69]

84. We further recommend that the regulatory bodies of health and social care increase their surveillance of financial systems including the use of powers of attorney and, in care homes, the use of residents' personal allowances.

63   Ev 15 Back

64   Unregistered powers of attorney - provides for an appointed attorney(ies) to manage the affairs of the donor, but does not have the same level of protection against abuse of that power that a registered power of attorney enjoys. Abuse of a registered power of attorney can be brought to the attention of the Court of Protection.  Back

65   Ev 150 Back

66   Ev 170 Back

67   Ev 187 Back

68   Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill, Session 2002-03, Draft Mental Incapacity Bill, HC1083-1 Back

69   Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill, Session 2002-03, Draft Mental Incapacity Bill, HC1083-1, paras 144, 150, 154, 157,159 Back

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