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Financial or material abuse

Financial abuse includes theft (of money or possessions), fraud, scams or coercion of somebody in relation to the financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with loans, wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions. It could also be misuse of a legal authority over somebody’s finances (such as Lasting Power of Attorney – LPA) or the misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits. Finally, rogue trading would also count as financial abuse (such as unnecessary or overpriced property repairs).

Possible signs or indicators of financial abuse include:

  • unexplained shortage of money or inability to maintain usual lifestyle
  • unexplained or unusual bank activity, for example, large withdrawals of funds
  • lack of cooperation and/or evasiveness by the person authorised to manage financial affairs
  • rent arrears, eviction notices or other debts
  • regular visits from door-to-door traders or frequent cold-calls on the phone
  • failure to provide receipts or clear financial accounts for someone carrying out financial transactions on behalf of the person

Case study

Safeguarding concerns have been raised with the Local Authority by the police for three people with dementia, after it was reported that an employee at their care agency had been arrested on suspicion of theft. These three individuals have all been assessed as lacking the mental capacity to make decisions over their finances and it is in their support plans that carers are responsible for managing their day-to-day finances. A routine audit by the care agency manager has revealed several discrepancies in the records for these three people – their cards have been used to make online purchases of clothing, streaming services and food deliveries – none of which they would have been able to do themselves, nor were there any records or receipts to explain the expenditure.

The manager has been able to look at shift patterns and records to determine a staff member who was working at the times of the transactions and had access to the bank cards. The police have then been contacted immediately.

Given that there is an ongoing criminal investigation, this must take priority over any safeguarding involvement and the social worker liaises closely with the investigating police officer to ensure this. The social worker also ensures that the service is taking necessary steps to reduce the risk of re-occurrence and to strengthen safeguards of people’s finances. Furthermore, the next of kin/relatives of the people involved are consulted to ensure that their wishes and views are taken into account. The social worker also works closely with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) Inspector for the service in order to consider whether the service has identified appropriate learning from what has happened, and has taken steps to improve their practices and procedures.