Unveiling the Hidden Crisis: Theft and Fraud Within Families

Posted: Friday, 8 September 2023 @ 13:10

Financial abuse is a growing concern, but it's not always perpetrated by strangers. Contrary to popular belief, a significant portion of financial abuse occurs within families. This blog sheds light on this often overlooked issue and discusses the need for awareness and action.

A report for Help the Aged in 2008 revealed that a staggering 70% of financial abuse against older people is committed by family members, with an estimated 60 to 80% of these crimes happening within the victim's own home. Moreover, approximately 50% of financial abuse cases in the UK are perpetrated by adult children of the victim.

The demographic shift towards an aging population is likely to increase the prevalence of family-related financial abuse. As individuals live longer, managing property and complex financial resources becomes more challenging, creating opportunities for exploitation.

The independent Financial Vulnerability Taskforce has taken a crucial step in addressing this issue. Their report aims to raise awareness and spark discussion about financial abuse within families, often referred to as "the elephant in the room." It is a timely response as we strive to rebuild our society and combat the rise in fraud and financial scams, exacerbated by the recent pandemic.

To combat this issue effectively, we must first understand its scale and nature. This calls for extensive research to shed light on the motivations behind family-based financial abuse. Is it driven by a desire to evade care home fees or inheritance tax, or do relatives believe the money is rightfully theirs? The answers to these questions remain largely unknown but are essential for developing effective prevention and response strategies.

The consequences of ignoring this issue are grave. Victims suffer financial losses, and the burden often falls on taxpayers as care fee debts accumulate. The problem extends beyond local authorities, affecting various agencies and society as a whole.

Similar to the evolution in our understanding of child abuse, which shifted from assuming perpetrators were strangers to recognizing that many abusers are known to the victim, we must challenge assumptions about financial abuse. It's not just external criminals; it's happening within families.

In Norfolk County Council, the establishment of a Financial Abuse and Safeguarding Officer (FASO) has proved successful in addressing financial abuse within families. This role acts as a point of contact, assists in investigations, and collaborates with various agencies to safeguard individuals' finances.

Engaging Safeguarding Adults Boards (SABs) play a vital role in responding to adult safeguarding issues, including financial abuse. Engaging SABs on the matter of theft and fraud within families is crucial to raise awareness and stimulate collective action.

Financial abuse within families is a pressing issue with far-reaching consequences. We need research, training, and awareness campaigns to combat this hidden crisis effectively. It's a public health concern that affects psychological well-being, adds to healthcare costs, and burdens social care and law enforcement agencies. As we unite to address this issue, we can begin to tackle the "elephant in the room" and protect our loved ones from financial exploitation.