What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is the main form of abuse by the Office of the Public Guardian both amongst adults and children at risk. Financial recorded abuse can occur in isolation, but as research has shown, where there are other forms of abuse, there is likely to be financial abuse occurring. Whilst this is not always the case, staff and volunteers need to aware of and vigilant to this.

Examples of Financial/Material Abuse include:

  • Theft;

  • Fraud;

  • Exploitation;

  • Pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance or financial transactions; or

  • The misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

It also includes the withholding of money or the unauthorised or improper use of a person’s money or property, usually to the disadvantage of the person to whom it belongs.

Staff borrowing money or objects from a service user is also considered financial abuse.

Potential indicators of financial/material abuse include:

  • Lack of heating, clothing or food;

    • Inability to pay bills/unexplained shortage of money;

    • Change in living conditions

  • Unexplained withdrawals from accounts;

    • Unexplained loss/misplacement of financial documents;

    • The recent addition of authorised signers on a client or donor’s signature card;

  • Disparity between assets/income and living conditions;

  • Power of attorney obtained when the person lacks the Capacity to make this decision;

  • Sudden or unexpected changes in a will or deeds/title of house or other financial documents;

  • Recent acquaintances expressing sudden or disproportionate interest in the person and their money;

  • Service user not in control of their direct payment or individualised budget;

  • Mis-selling/selling by door-to-door traders/cold calling;

  • Illegal money-lending.

  • ‘Mate’ Crime

  • Goods, Services being bought that the person has no use for.

Financial abuse has the potential to significantly threaten an adult’s health and well-being.

Most financial abuse may be theft or fraud and so would be a matter for the police to investigate. It may also require attention and collaboration from a wider group of organisations, including shops and financial institutions such as banks.

Where the abuse is by someone who has the authority to manage an adult’s money, the relevant body should be informed, for example, the Office of the Public Guardian for deputies and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in relation to appointees.

If there are concerns that a DWP appointee is acting incorrectly, the DWP should be contacted immediately. In addition to a name and address the DWP can act more quickly if it also has a National Insurance number. If the DWP know that the person is also known to the local authority then they should also inform them.

Undue Influence

The concept of ‘undue influence’ applies where a person has capacity to conduct a financial or property transaction (usually related to gifts or wills), but they have been not just influenced, but unduly influenced by someone else. If there is evidence of coercion or undue pressure, this is known as ‘express undue influence’. Usually there is no such evidence, but there may have been ‘presumed undue influence.‘

There are three initial points in relation to undue influence:

  1. The unduly influenced person has mental Capacity to take the decision in question;

  2. The person is influenced to enter into a transaction concerning a gift or will, in such a way that it is not of his or her own free will;

  3. There are two legal types of undue influence. One is called ‘express’ undue influence that applies to both gifts and wills; the other is called ‘presumed’ undue influence and applies to gifts only’ Consent should not therefore always be accepted at face value, since some adults may need protection from emotional manipulation and exploitation.

In addition to undue influence, the courts can simply set aside gifts or wills on the grounds that the person lacked capacity at the relevant time.