State Trustees Supports Recommendations on Financial Elder Abuse by Royal Commission into Family Violence

State Trustees announced its support of the findings of the Royal Commission into Family Violence released today, specifically applauding its recommendations on the identification and prevention of financial elder abuse, which is a form of violence or exploitation committed against Australia’s elderly, often perpetrated by family members.

Financial elder abuse occurs when someone takes advantage of a relationship with an elderly person to exploit them for financial gain. This often manifests as misappropriation of funds and assets, or changes to a Will, either fraudulently or through undue influence.

The Royal Commission into Family Violence shows that family violence against older people tends to be under-reported, and can be physical, psychological, emotional or sexual, and the majority of victims are women. It also identifies a clear reluctance of older people to report violence due to shame, fear of not being believed or financial reliance on the perpetrator.

Sadly, the report also found that the perpetrator of economic or financial abuse against older people is often the victim’s son or daughter. Forty per cent of perpetrators are sons and 26.8 per cent are daughters.

State Trustees wholeheartedly endorses the recommendations issued by the Royal Commission today regarding older people and how the ever-increasing issue of elder abuse can be highlighted and dealt with.

State Trustees’ CEO Craig Dent said this Royal Commission had highlighted the terrible and tragic national issue of family violence, and importantly, placed emphasis on elder abuse, which too often goes unnoticed or unreported until it’s too late.

“As highlighted by the commission in its recommendations today, we believe there is merit in building awareness about family violence against older people through targeted information campaigns and training, but also through direct action. We agree that trialling a dedicated family violence and elder abuse response team by Victoria Police in one local service area could make a real difference to older people suffering in silence throughout the state.

“We’re pleased to see this issue addressed at a national level, through both the Royal Commission into Family Violence, and the recent request by Australia’s Attorney General, the Hon George Brandis QC, for an inquiry into elder abuse by the Australian Law Reform Commission.

“As Australia’s population is ageing, the number of vulnerable people is increasing, making elder abuse one of our most serious emerging social issues. We want to help raise awareness about it now, so that we can help people prevent the crime from occurring.

“We know that many cases of financial elder abuse go unreported, it’s challenging to get a sense of the real numbers. State Trustees commissioned research with Monash University which showed up to five percent of people aged over 65 have reported some form of financial elder abuse.

“The research also showed that tragically, in 60 per cent of cases, elder abuse is perpetrated by a close family member. Often State Trustees is asked to step in after the damage has been done, when it is often not be possible to recover lost property or money. This is why early detection and robust legal safeguards are so important.

“Sadly, many people choose to live with the abuse to avoid breaking up a family or friendship. Others live with it because they don’t know where to turn to for help or are too scared to take action. We must do more to help our elders here in Victoria,” Dent said.