Adult children are demanding financial help from their retired parents.
Adult children are demanding financial help from their retired parents.

Horrific new form of elder abuse triggered by COVID-19

BANKS are dobbing in greedy children with "inheritance entitlement'' who are ripping off elderly parents during the COVID-19 recession.

Australian Banking Association boss Anna Bligh yesterday warned that elder abuse is on the rise, as broke children demand a financial bailout from retired parents.

She said banks in Queensland were reporting suspicious transactions to the Office of the Public Guardian, which has wider powers than in other states and territories.

"Banks have identified that an account is being used in a way that's suspicious, and they've turned up at houses literally to find elderly people chained to a bed or sleeping in a shed outside,'' Ms Bligh told The Sunday Mail.

"It's inheritance entitlement - some people feel 'the money's mine'.

"Older Australians have saved all their lives to prepare for retirement, and adult children take advantage of that.

"This means people can be living their old age in desperate circumstances.''

Ms Bligh, a former Queensland premier, said the state and territory governments still had not developed a national register of powers of attorney, so bank staff can double-check who has legal access to elderly customers' accounts.

"Banks have no way of checking if a power of attorney is current or fraudulent,'' she said.

"We want the laws changed.

"Bank staff are at the frontline of financial abuse - they're the ones who see their elderly customers in branches being pressured to withdraw money, and who see unusual transactions in the account.

"They've got a customer in her 90s, very frail, and see activity in the bank account at a luxury ski resort in northern Europe, or they've bought a boat or a giant motorbike.

"All the banks can do is go to the police, but most people don't want to report their adult children to the police.''

Queensland Acting Public Guardian Shayna Smith said the agency had finalised 22 elder abuse cases reported by banks in the past year.

She said some cases had been referred to police, who had charged family members with fraud or failure to supply necessities of life.

A 73-year-old woman who had owned four properties had to be rescued from the locked basement room of her son's home, sitting in her own faeces.

"It's heartbreaking to see the abuse, both financial and physical, that these vulnerable older Queenslanders are subject to, especially as the perpetrators are all too often their own children,'' Ms Smith said.

"Unfortunately that's even more true during the current pandemic situation.

"The health restrictions mean we might not be seeing our older Queenslanders out and about in the community so much.

"The current economic conditions and associated financial pressures mean the risk of older people being financially exploited or abused by family members is heightened.''

More than 1700 notifications of abuse were reported to the Queensland Government-funded Elder Abuse Prevention Unit last financial year.

The greedy are preying on the most vulnerable. Ms Bligh said elderly people "trust their loved ones, who sometimes turn out to be untrustworthy''.

"In times of economic crisis you're more likely to see financial abuse of vulnerable people,'' the former premier warned.

"So many people are under financial pressure. And when people are financially desperate they will too often try to resolve that at the expense of those who trust and love them … enough to let them sign something on their behalf.'' 

Need help?

Office of the Public Guardian 1300 651 192

Elder Abuse Helpline 1300 651 192

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