Elder financial abuse persists in Western Australia – report

Many victims suffer in silence, unsure in seeking help

Elder financial abuse persists in Western Australia – report

Nearly half of Western Australians aged 59 to 79 suffer financial abuse in silence and are unsure about seeking support, a Bankwest report has revealed.

Figures from Bankwest’s Hidden Costs survey also showed that more than a quarter (28%) of Western Australians have experienced elder financial abuse, a 2% increase from the previous analysis.

Of particular concern is the fear preventing the older generation from seeking support, with almost half (48%) unsure if they would seek help or had decided against it.

The findings showed that 69% of the baby boomer generation felt it would be difficult to seek help for financial abuse, compared to 56% of Gen X, 54% of millennials, and 62% of Gen Z.

Older Western Australians cited fear as a significant barrier to seeking support, with concerns about retaliation (90%), the perpetrator finding out (81%), and embarrassment (76%). Around 58% of older Western Australians worried they would not be believed if they sought support.

The leading forms of financial abuse experienced by older Western Australians included non-repayment of loans (68%), use of their money without knowledge or consent (67%), and making them feel incapable of managing their money (59%).

The Hidden Costs survey, which polled more than 1,000 adults in Western Australia, was commissioned by Bankwest to raise awareness of the covert epidemic impacting vulnerable individuals across the state. Its results were released ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Bankwest collaborates annually with Council on the Ageing WA, Advocare, the Department of Communities, and other organisations to support the awareness campaign around World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Earlier this year, Bankwest partnered with Advocare to provide its customer assistance team with bespoke training to identify signs of financial abuse in online or phone settings. The customer assistance team offers support via a priority phone line to customers in vulnerable circumstances, with additional resources provided to all support colleagues.

“Elder abuse is a violation of an older person’s basic human rights and is a complex, multifaceted issue with little public awareness,” said Louise Johnstone Forster (pictured above left), chief executive of Advocare. “As a community, we need to do more to shine a light on this issue.”

Scott Spittles (pictured above right), general manager of personal banking at Bankwest, said the bank was committed to providing support to individuals vulnerable to financial abuse, especially the elderly.

“Bankwest has been supporting Western Australians for 129 years, and we remain dedicated to our customers and the communities of our home state,” Spittles said. “We believe it is our responsibility to support initiatives such as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.”

“The Hidden Costs research informs discussion on these critical issues, ensuring our colleagues are trained to identify abuse and provide appropriate support.

“We want customers and the community to know we’re here to help in their unique circumstances, and they can find more support via Bankwest’s Financial Abuse Hub, which connects to services such as 1800RESPECT.”

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