What is elder abuse?
As we get older, some of us may need help looking after our money and paying for things like bills and shopping. Or we may need support getting around or carrying out daily tasks.
If this is your situation, you may have an arrangement you’re happy with where a friend, relative or a carer helps you.
Sometimes though, things may go wrong or you may find you feel uncomfortable with the situation. Mistreatment doesn’t always involve a stranger. Someone you think of as a friend could mistreat you, perhaps by taking money from you or by making you feel afraid, uncomfortable or hurt.
No matter who’s helping, you’re in charge of making your own decisions and you have a right to be respected and listened to. If you’re concerned about yourself, there are people you can speak to and there is help available. Trust your instinct – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You don’t have to put up with it.
Examples of abuse
Abuse is when someone we expect to trust causes us harm or distress.
Abuse can take many forms, including financial, emotional, physical, sexual and neglect.
Some examples of abuse are:
- stealing or pressurising someone to hand over money
- making decisions without consulting the person involved
- treating someone in a way that makes them feel threatened, belittled or embarrassed
- touching someone in a way they don’t want to be touched
- physically hurting someone
- neglecting someone’s needs.
If you’re being cared for, abuse can include not giving you enough food, not keeping you warm, refusing to take you to the doctor when you’re ill, or stopping you from seeing friends and family. It’s possible a person could mistreat you in more than one way.
If you’ve told someone you’re unhappy with the way they’ve been speaking to or treating you, and they don’t change their behaviour, consider whether they really have your best interests at heart. Any kind of abuse is unacceptable, and you have the right to be respected and listened to.
What is financial abuse?
Usually the person you trust to help you with banking and shopping will have your best interests at heart, but it’s important to be aware of things that can go wrong.
Some examples of financial abuse are when a relative or carer:
- spends the older person’s money on themselves when they’re shopping for them
- refuses to let an older person decide what to spend their money on
- tells an older person they should give them money, perhaps by telling a hard luck story or by making the older person feel they’re a burden
- moves into the older person’s home uninvited, or pressurises the person to sign their property over to them or to change their will.
Financial abuse is never acceptable, no matter how minor it may seem. You don’t have to put up with it, and there is help available for you to put a stop to it.
How can I keep my money safe?
You may have asked a relative, friend, or your carer to help with your finances. However much you trust that person, it’s important to know how your money is being spent.
Talking about how you would like things to be done from the start and keeping records and receipts can avoid any misunderstandings.
Here are some ways to keep control over your money:
Keep your Personal Identification Number (PIN) secret. If you give anyone your PIN, you won’t have any protection from the bank or building society if money is taken.
- If someone does your shopping for you, write down what you asked them to buy. Ask for receipts so you can keep a record of what has been bought and hold on to these for safe-keeping.
- Keep your old bank statements and bills. Check your bank balance regularly to ensure everything is as it should be.
- Make sure you’re included in all decisions about your money.
- If someone is helping you with online banking, keep your passwords and numbers hidden.
- Before signing a cheque, make sure the amount and details of who is to receive the payment have been completed correctly. Never sign a blank cheque.
- Don’t hide large amounts of cash in your home. Most home insurance policies only cover you for a small amount of cash. Keep your money in a bank, building society or credit union account.
Having more than one person to support you with your finances adds protection and will help prevent people from being dishonest. It also means that if one person is away or busy, you still have someone to rely on.
Help managing your money
Safe ways for someone to help you manage your money
Think about whether any of these suggestions could work for you.
- Pay the person back by cheque. This means you can avoid the risk of giving someone access to your bank card and PIN.
- Set up a standing order. You can instruct your bank or building society to make a regular payment of a fixed amount into another account. This could help if someone regularly does your shopping for you or pays your bills.
- Set up Direct Debits for your bills. This can be a convenient way to pay regular bills to a company, for example your utilities bills.
- Use a pre-paid card. This is a payment card that you load with money. It means you can be in control of how much money you’re giving the other person to spend. You can put money on the card at a cash machine, local PayPoint, Post Office, online, or by cheque or bank transfer. You normally have to pay a fee to use most pre-paid cards.
- Use gift vouchers or gift cards. You can give these to someone else to make purchases on your behalf. Gift vouchers can often be purchased online or over the telephone.
- Make your bank account a joint account. You can add a trusted person to your bank account so they have access to your money. If you do this, restrict the account so it’s only used for cheques. Ask the bank to set up a ‘both mandate’. This means any cheques must be signed by both of you. Bear in mind that you’ll be liable if the other person causes the account to go overdrawn, which can affect your credit rating.
- Give someone permission to manage your bank account on your behalf. This is called a third party mandate. You may be able to limit what the person can do, for example, only allowing them to check your balance or withdraw a restricted amount of money.
Ask at your bank or building society for advice on setting up a standing order, Direct Debit, joint account or third party mandate.
I'm worried someone is stealing from me. What can I do?
Unfortunately, there are some people who will take more money than you have given them permission to spend, or spend your change on themselves.
You might suspect someone is being dishonest, but you may be unsure about how to deal with it.
If you think someone is stealing from you, talk informally to someone you trust, or contact Age Cymru Advice on 08000 223 444 or your local council to find your Adult Protection Safeguarding team. You should contact the police if you think a theft has occurred.
How can I find a safe carer?
If you need care and support, it’s important that the person helping you is someone you can trust.
All social services departments and private care agencies must register with regulatory body, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CCSIW). Social services must also ask the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to run a check on any social care staff who are being recruited.
If you’re employing your own carer via a direct payment, you can still get advice and support from social services. It’s advisable to get the carer DBS-checked. For more information contact the Disclosure and Barring Service on 0870 90 90 811.
Many people who need care and support like the idea of employing a friend, as they feel at ease with them and trust them. Employing a friend is likely to change your relationship. You must be prepared to treat them as an employee during working hours, and they must take the commitment seriously. Make it clear from the start what the expectations are on both sides, and draw up a contract as you would for any employee.
To find out more about employing your own care workers, contact Disability Rights UK. You can also call HM Revenue & Customs New Employer Helpline on 0300 200 3211, or look at the HMRC New Employer – Getting Started web page.
What will happen if I report abuse?
Any behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened is unacceptable and you have the right to take action to stop it.
The best way to protect yourself and stop abuse from happening is to report it. This may feel difficult, especially if the person abusing you is a close friend or relative, but bear in mind that they have broken your trust and are in the wrong.
Some people worry that telling someone means they will lose their right to care and support, but this is not the case. Others worry that they will lose the person they rely on for care, but it is important to know you have the option to put things right.
Share your concerns by telling someone you trust, such as:
- a friend or relative
- your GP, care worker, or social worker
- the Adult Social Services team at your local council.
Contact Age Cymru on 08000 223 444 for advice about reporting abuse. You can call the local police on the 101 non-emergency number. If you have been physically harmed and need instant attention, call 999 immediately.
What will happen if I report abuse?
When you report abuse to Adult Social Services, the relevant person will listen to the information you give them and assess whether you’re at risk. Before any investigation goes ahead, you should be asked what you want them to do, and they must respond appropriately.
If you’re at risk of further abuse, the Adult Social Services team will draw up a plan explaining what action they intend to keep you safe. You should be fully involved at every stage of this process.
If you report a case of abuse, you can ask for a relative or support worker to come to meetings with you. You also have the right to ask for an advocate. An advocate is someone who can help you to understand the process, give you support, make informed choices and if necessary speak on your behalf.
For more information about advocacy or to find an advocate, contact our safeguarding team