Adults subject to financial abuse
Financial abuse includes theft, fraud, internet scamming, coercion in relation to an adult’s financial affairs or arrangements, including in connection with wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.
Possible indicators of financial or material abuse include:
- missing personal possessions
- unexplained lack of money or inability to maintain lifestyle
- unexplained withdrawal of funds from accounts
- power of attorney or lasting power of attorney (LPA) being obtained after the person has ceased to have mental capacity
- failure to register an LPA after the person has ceased to have mental capacity to manage their finances so that it appears that they are continuing to do so
- the person allocated to manage financial affairs is evasive or uncooperative
- the family or others show unusual interest in the assets of the person
- signs of financial hardship in cases where the person’s financial affairs are being managed by a court appointed deputy, attorney or LPA
- recent changes in the deeds or title to property
- rent arrears and eviction notices
- a lack of clear financial accounts held by a care home or service
- failure to provide receipts for shopping or other financial transactions carried out on behalf of the person
- disparity between the person’s living conditions and their financial resources, e.g. insufficient food in the house
- unnecessary property repairs.
This audit reviewed the records of four adults open to safeguarding due to financial abuse. The aim of the audit was to ascertain whether there were good multi-agency standards for managing financial abuse cases and whether organisations have implemented a robust and consistent response in line with statutory and good practice guidance, SGSAB policies and procedures and the six key principles underpinning all adult safeguarding work:
- Empowerment: People being supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and give informed consent.
- Prevention: It is better to take action before harm occurs.
- Proportionality: The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented.
- Protection: Support and representation for those in greatest need.
- Partnership: Local solutions through services working with their communities – communities have a part to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse.
- Accountability: Accountability and transparency in safeguarding practice.
The audit team identified that these four reviews of case files held the potential to shed light on particular areas of practice across the adult safeguarding system in South Gloucestershire. The audit team prioritised four findings for the SGSAB members to consider. These are:
The opportunity for assessing mental capacity of adults subject to safeguarding in accordance to MCA guidance at the earliest opportunity and review within appropriate timescales is not being used to best effect to achieve the desired outcome for adults at risk of abuse.
There are limitations in the way professionals ensure consistency when sharing information and making referrals to other organisations. Not all professionals are following the Safeguarding Adults Multi-Agency Policy. This increases the likelihood that any risks may not be addressed in a timely manner.
It is unclear how much information care agencies know about previous safeguarding concerns in order to assist them in placing current concerns in context of previous knowledge.
Ensuring that all agencies are involved in safeguarding investigations and case management is important. Social workers are not always obtaining health information from GPs or other organisations that could potentially assist in the safeguarding pathway.
The opportunity for recognising service users who may require Care Act advocacy which has a far broader scope and includes adults who may have substantial difficulty in engagement is not always being explored in order to achieve the best outcomes for adults at risk.
- Social Care to robustly identify who should be involved in safeguarding cases and contact GPs and other healthcare providers to obtain potentially relevant information.
- Social workers to consider following up visits with a letter to outline discussions held to support adults with short-term memory loss.
- AWP practitioners to document any actions or enquiries undertaken following the disclosure of information from service users or family members, regarding all matters arising, not just clinical issues
- Coding for GP practices to be refreshed to include adult safeguarding to ensure all GPs are aware of patients subject to safeguarding adult concerns. GPs to ensure minutes of safeguarding meetings are scanned and entered into the notes.
- Professionals should ensure that when informed that allegations of financial abuse are being investigated there is not an assumption that all appropriate measures are being taken by social care. Professionals should follow up with social care to corroborate this assumption or to challenge as to why their organisations had not been notified in the first instance.
- For all agencies to recognise adults at risk of harm experiencing substantial difficulties and consider referring to advocacy services as appropriate.
- Social work teams to consider whether assessment/support plan should include information regarding previous safeguarding incidents/vulnerabilities so that the care agency might know to ask for more detail if it became relevant.