Elderly being financially abused by people close to them

By IH 28/03 Updated: 28/03 10:00

Buy photos » Age concern - Coun Izzy Seccombe, county adult and social care spokeswoman, radio presenter Liz Kershaw, patron of Age UK Warwickshire, and Elizabeth Phillips, chief executive of Age UK Warwickshire. 13.012.046.leam.jm1 (www.buyphotos247.com)

PENSIONERS are being left without enough money for food and fuel because they have been cheated out of their savings by people they know.

The economic downturn has triggered growing concerns over the rise in financial abuse cases in Warwickshire involving the over 65s, which are often carried out by a relative or person in a position of trust - so

reveals a campaign by Warwickshire County Council and Age UK Warwickshire.

Broadcaster Liz Kershaw has joined Age UK Warwickshire and the county council, in calling on people to look out for signs an older person has been taken advantage of financially.

The number of financial elder abuse cases reported to Social Services has recently risen by almost a tenth and they say the cases they learn about are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

In one alarming case an elderly man was forced to live in squalor on £1 a day, resorting to setting fire to his furniture to keep warm because a so-called ‘friend’ was cashing his benefits for him.

And in another, an elderly woman was cheated out of her savings and left with significant debts by her son who was supposed to be accessing her account to pay for shopping.

Financial abuse is the second highest form of elder abuse following neglect, but it often goes unreported and unrecognised because it involves someone trusted, such as a care worker or relative.

Relatives often try and justify their actions by explaining they are receiving part of their inheritance early - but financial abuse is a crime be it theft, fraud or misuse of powers of attorney.

Ms Kershaw, who is patron of Age UK Warwickshire, said: “The impact of the recession on older people has largely gone under the radar and awareness of financial abuse is minimal. The reality is that this could be happening to someone you know. The perpetrators think they can get away with it because their victims are frail, lonely or mentally impaired and we need to send out a clear message that this has to stop.”

Coun Izzi Seccombe, county adult social care spokeswoman, said people needed to recognise and report such abuse so a stop could be put to it.

She added: "For too long these cases have been hidden because they are difficult to identify and older people may have feared retribution or the impact on their family relationships.”

Warwickshire County Council has a dedicated Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Team to protect older people and coordinate abuse investigation and victim support. Anyone concerned a vulnerable adult could be at risk should call 01926 412080 or for more information log on to www.warwickshire.gov.uk/safeguardingadults

Age UK offers counselling and emotional support to older people who may be feeling uncomfortable about the way they or someone else is being treated, whether living at home or in care. Calls are treated with confidentiality and understanding, and the team also offers counselling. Call Kate Richmond of Age UK on 01926 458114.

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