Commissioning care homes: common safeguarding challenges
Common safeguarding issues – Financial abuse
A study into the abuse of older people in the UK (O’Keeffe et al. 2007) found that financial abuse is the second most prevalent type of mistreatment after neglect. The No secrets definition of financial abuse is:
'financial or material abuse, including theft, fraud, exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits' (DH 2000).
Older people, particularly people with dementia, are among those at greatest risk of financial abuse. Indications are that 60–80 per cent of financial abuse against older people takes place in the home and 15–20 per cent in residential care (Help the Aged 2008). People in care homes may be better protected than those who are isolated or living alone, for example, they may be less likely to be targeted by rogue traders or telesales fraud, but there are different risks of financial abuse for this group. Some residents will have little or no control over their own money and are reliant on relatives or the home to safeguard their finances. Examples of financial abuse in care homes include:
- the home using resident's own money to pay for things for the home without the person's agreement
- a care worker accepting an inappropriate gift or reward
- a relative receiving benefits on the person's behalf but not passing on the personal allowance
- an appointed deputy not managing the person's finances in their best interest.
A report on financial abuse (PDF) (ACPO/SCIE 2011) highlighted that some care providers did not see it as their role to raise concerns about the decisions of a 'deputy' or an 'appointee'. Others reported that they had raised concerns with the local authority only to be told that – if a deputy or appointee was in place – nothing could be done.
If people are to be safeguarded against financial abuse then concerns about deputies and appointees must be reported so that best interests meetings can take place. If the local authority receives an alert it can apply to have the deputyship or appointeeship revoked and awarded to the local authority deputy.
- The home keeps clear records of people's individual finances.
- People's individual finances are audited monthly by the home manager or administrator – relatives are kept informed of transactions as appropriate.
- The home ensures that residents receive their full entitlement of benefits and income.
- Care home staff understand that they have a responsibility to report concerns about financial abuse through safeguarding procedures and, where appropriate, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
- Local authority income teams make a safeguarding referral if a person's care fees are not being paid.
- The local authority deputy maintains links with care homes in the area.