State Trustees Victoria’s chief executive sees a greater risk of elder abuse in commercial financial administrators and wants regulations tightened to address the issue.
Craig Dent visited Wodonga to discuss the problem and urge residents to safeguard their money by creating a will early on in life.
“I was really impressed Wodonga Council have an awareness – they mentioned the term financial elder abuse before I did, which is really rare,” he said.
Mr Dent said the commercialisation of groups protecting elderly peoples’ finances was concerning.
“Being owned by government means if we need to step in and take action to protect our clients, that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “A lot of the private providers won’t take the action on because it has to be funded.
“I’d be distressed to see us go down the path of the US … you end up with higher incidence of abuse more broadly.
“(With the commission into law reform) we hope to see a toughening of laws and regulations about people who can provide these services.”
The call to hold independent providers accountable comes strongly from Border advocate Maria Berry, whose family member experienced abuse under appointment of a private provider.
“They haven’t performed their duties in protecting him financially,” she said.
“I went to the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal with complaints but my claim was dismissed.”
Mrs Berry has voiced her concerns with the commission and met with Antoinette Libertone, elder abuse prevention manager at the Department of Health and Human Services.
“I’ve got a fire in my belly – when you meet people at the supermarket in tears, you know it's not right,” she said. “We have no advocacy up here.”
When asked if a member of the State Trustees could be based permanently in the North East, Mr Dent said it would be a case of identifying need.
“We need to make sure of the resources we’ve got, they’re most utilised … we’re always open to seeing what’s to come,” he said.
Mr Dent said creating a will as soon as possible was an effective and largely missed strategy to safeguard finances – 49 per cent of Victorians don’t have one.
“If we all had wills, not only would it reduce the chance of abuse, but it takes a burden off those that care about us the most,” he said.