Two thirds of people who needed help from others to manage their money during the COVID-19 lockdown have not taken back control of their own finances.
This is according to new research commissioned by BPFI together with Safeguarding Ireland.
BPFI and Safeguarding Ireland recommend that, while following public health guidelines, people should take back and keep control of their own money as much as possible – in order to combat financial abuse.
Carried out on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, using RED C’s online omnibus survey, the research found that:
- 11% of adults needed the help of others to manage or access their money during the COVID lockdown period. However, just one-third (33%) of these have taken back this control since the lockdown restrictions were lifted
- One in twenty people (5%) said they experienced financial abuse during lockdown and 19% had ever experienced financial abuse
- 13% were concerned about someone taking advantage of them financially
- 12% experienced less control of their finances since the pandemic began.
During the pandemic the retail banks and An Post have developed services and policies to support vulnerable customers. People can talk with their bank who have trained frontline staff in identifying and responding to financial abuse. Steps which people should take include:
- Understand and organise your day-to-day banking
- Check your bank account(s) regularly
- Ensure access to your money for you and only a highly trusted person by putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney.
BPFI Head of Sustainable Banking, Louise O’Mahony said: “We and Safeguarding Ireland recommend that people keep control of their own money, particularly if vulnerable. As much as possible, and doing so safely, take back any control of your money you given up during COVID-19.
“A lot of useful information is available in a booklet called Safeguarding your Money Now and in the Future which can be viewed at www.safeguardyourmoney.ie”.
Information guide and dedicated bank phonelines for cocooning and vulnerable bank customers
Banking & Payments Federation Ireland has published a special information guide providing practical advice for cocooning customers on the various ways in which they can manage their day-to-day banking and finances in a safe way while they stay at home. In addition each of the five retail banks, AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC, permanent tsb and Ulster Bank now have dedicated phonelines to assist cocooning customers during the Covid-19 crisis.
The guide gives essential banking advice for those cocooning which includes details on:
- Over the phone and online banking options
- Making payments over the phone
- Calling your bank, and
- Getting help with your banking
- List of dedicated phone numbers for each of the banks which customers can contact if they require assistance while cocooning
Safeguard Your Money Financial Abuse Campaign
We all need to prepare for the likelihood that one day we may need extra help to manage our financial affairs. This may happen unexpectedly and for a number of reasons including if you have a life-changing accident, become seriously ill or become frail due to ageing.
If you haven’t spoken to someone you can trust or have not legally stated your choices, preferences and decisions you reliant on the honesty of friends and family. Unfortunately, it is estimated internationally that in excess of 10% of people are dishonest in how they manage a vulnerable person’s money. However, this research confirms that the real incidence is higher than that with 20% reported.
Some 20% of adults in Ireland have experience of financial abuse
Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) together with Safeguarding Ireland have launched a campaign to highlight the need for greater awareness of the real risks of financial abuse and calling on all adults to better plan ahead to safeguard their finances. As part of this campaign we have commissioned research which shows that up to 20% of adults have experience of financial abuse, however many older adults still do not think that it could happen to them. Specially the research shows:
- Some 20% of adults had experience of financial abuse, either currently or in the past.
- A total of 10% said someone had used their property or possessions without permission, 8% said an income earning adult living with them refused to contribute to household bills, 6% said someone was making decisions about their money without consulting them and 4% said that they had money taken or used from a joint account without their agreement.
- While some 43% said they were concerned about experiencing financial abuse in the future, the same figure of 43% were not concerned that financial abuse could happen to them in the future – with older people the least concerned about the issue.
BPFI’s Guide to Safeguarding You Money Now and in the Future
BPFI and Safeguarding Ireland are calling on adult to take proactive steps to plan ahead and avoid financial abuse by talking to someone they trust about their future finances. Whether you have a little or lot to safeguard, some simple steps in planning ahead include:
- Understanding and organising your day-to-day banking to best protect against financial abuse
- Checking your bank account(s) regularly
- Ensuring access for you, and only a trusted person if needed, to your money by putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney.”
BPFI along with its member banks and with support from Safeguarding Ireland have developed a guide on Safeguarding Your Money Now and in the Future which provides advice on how you can best prepare for a time when you may need assistance to properly manage your money.
The guide, which can be downloaded here, is also available from banks and the offices of many Safeguarding Ireland members, including HSE Safeguarding Teams across the country, and has achieved the Plain English mark from NALA.
BPFI member banks have taken the approach that anyone can be vulnerable and are developing policies to allow frontline staff (at a branch or hub, in a call service or online) to identify a customer who may need assistance and to deal sensitively with such situations. Safeguarding Ireland and the HSE Safeguarding Office have provided us with expert training and these insights are integrated into bank training.
Financial Abuse of Vulnerable Adults: Experience of Bank Staff
The National Centre for the Protection of Older People at University College Dublin recently completed a report examining bank staff’s experiences of financial abuse of vulnerable adults, funded through BPFI and involving five retail banks – AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, permanent tsb and KBC.
Survey data were collected from almost 900 bank frontline bank staff and interviews were undertaken with 20 bank managers and five members of the National Safeguarding Committee (a multi-agency and inter-sectoral body, established by the Health Services Executive in 2014 to help ensure that adults who may be vulnerable are safeguarded).
Findings from the survey data demonstrated that some 66.5% of survey respondents had previously suspected a customer to be experiencing some form of financial abuse, while interviews indicated a widespread awareness and competence within the banking sector, and in particular a strong willingness on the part of staff to assist and protect the customer. The full report is available to download here.
What is Financial Abuse?
The HSE defines financial abuse is defined as the unauthorised and improper use of funds, property or any resources including pensions, or others statutory entitlements or benefits. Financial abuse involves an act or acts where a person is deprived of control of their finances or personal possessions or exploited financially by another person or persons.
Unfortunately, banks have found that at times people close to some of our customers can sometimes take advantage of the customer’s dependence on them. The abuser may often not consider taking money from their relative or friend’s account for their own uses as wrong and the customer may be reluctant to take formal action. So planning ahead to ensure your own wishes are followed and your money is protected makes sense.
Financial abuse can be subtle. It can build up over time, so you do not realise that what is happening is unfair to you and possibly illegal. It can also be complicated when it is carried out by someone you know and perhaps depend on. Regardless of your age, status or capacity, you should be confident your money is managed directly, safely and for your benefit.
Contacting your bank
If you want help and advice about keeping your money safe or you are concerned about fraud, contact your bank.
Bankcentre, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Phone: 0818227056 (Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm)
Bank of Ireland
40 Mespil Road, Dublin 4.
Phone: 1800 946146 (Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm)
Sandwith Street Upper, Dublin 2.
Phone: 1800 939 244
56-59 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.
Phone: 1890 500 121 / 01-2124101 (Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm excluding bank holidays Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm)
Ulster Bank Group Centre,
Ireland George’s Quay, Dublin 2.
DAC Website: www.ulsterbank.ie
Phone: 1850 4 24 365 (from abroad: +353 1 804 7475)
You can also contact the Health Service Executve (HSE) for help and information. There are Safeguarding and Protection Teams in place all over the country, to take reports of abuse of older persons and other adults at risk of abuse in vulnerable situations and provide help. Contact your local Safeguarding and Protection Team through the contact details below.
Website: Safeguarding and Protection Teams
Phone: 061 461 165 or the HSE Information Line on 1850 24 1850
BPFI and Safeguarding
Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) represents the banking, payments and fintech sector in Ireland. Working on behalf of our members banks BPFI participates in the Safeguarding Ireland Committee which seeks to promote a culture of safeguarding vulnerable adults.
Our members have taken the approach that anyone can be vulnerable and are developing policies to allow frontline staff (at a branch or hub, in a call service or online) to identify a customer who may need assistance and to deal sensitively with such situations. Safeguarding Ireland and the HSE Safeguarding Office have provided us with expert training and these insights are integrated into bank training.
Banks can take actions to prevent and stop financial abuse; they can make dedicated one-to-one appointments available for customers who need it, they can speak with customers in confidence, and with an account holder’s permission they can monitor for suspicious behaviour.
Safeguarding Ireland was established to promote safeguarding of adults who may be vulnerable, protect them from all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and develop a national plan for promoting their welfare. This will be achieved by promoting inter-sectoral collaboration, developing public and professional awareness and education, and undertaking research to inform policy, practice and legislation in the Republic of Ireland. https://www.safeguardingireland.org/