The Federal Government’s announcement today of a national plan to tackle elder abuse has been welcomed by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers as a vital step to protect older Australians.
Maurice Blackburn Wills Principal Andrew Simpson said the commitment today to develop a national plan by the end of the year was significant and a key recommendation of a recent Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry into elder abuse.
Mr Simpson said it was vital that other key recommendations from the ALRC review, including a strengthening of safeguards regarding powers of attorney and best practice guidelines for wills, were also incorporated into the national plan.
“We welcome today’s announcement to develop a national plan that will ensure greater consistency across all states and the Commonwealth in tackling the scourge of elder abuse,” Mr Simpson said.
“Elder abuse, particularly financial elder abuse, remains a major problem in Australia - it is something we continue to see regularly, and sadly such abuse tends to occur through the misuse of power by a relative, friend or close acquaintance, which can make it difficult to detect and also means that many people affected are reluctant to seek help or take action.
“The recent ALRC inquiry made a series of strong recommendations that we believe would go a long way to addressing these issues, and we urge the Commonwealth and the states to ensure that these recommendations are acted on in the development of any national plan.
“Specifically this must include the introduction of greater safeguards to protect against the misuse of powers of attorney, including the introduction of a national online power of attorney register and restricting conflict transactions.
“We would also welcome best practice guidelines for lawyers regarding the preparation of wills and powers of attorney – in particular, lawyers need to know the test for testamentary capacity and how to reduce the risk of wills and powers of attorney being procured by duress or undue influence.
“As the ALRC review also noted, amendments to aged care legislation are urgently needed, including specifically the introduction of a ‘serious incident scheme’ that would require an aged care provider to report suspected abuse or neglect of any kind.
“Finally we would also welcome the introduction of a Code of Banking Practice that would help to prevent elder financial abuse by requiring training of staff in how to detect and report such abuse.
“We note also today calls from the Australian Bankers’ Association for changes to assist banking employees to safely report suspected financial abuse, and we would welcome these measures in the development of any national plan,” he said.
Media Contact: Jade Thompson at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on 0417 969 438