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Financial and material abuse

The Care Act (2014) describes ‘financial abuse’ as a type of abuse which includes having money or other property stolen, being defrauded, being put under pressure in relation to money or other property and having money or other property misused.

The associated statutory Care Act guidance (section 14:17) also contains the following definition of financial abuse:

‘Financial or material abuse – including 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.’

Financial abuse rarely occurs in isolation and often happens alongside other abuses. 

Domestic abuse can present particular challenges with identifying and responding to financial abuse. See the domestic abuse webpage for further information.

Some forms of financial abuse such as scams or fraud may be easy to recognise. However, it can start small and develop, such as a neighbour helping out with shopping and not returning all the change. This may then progress to charging large amounts for providing this service, perhaps then putting emotional pressure on an adult at risk to help buy a car, or to change their will.

What might financial abuse look like?

Some examples are shown below: 

  • Fraud, scamming, including internet scams
  • Theft
  • Preventing a person from accessing their own money, benefits or assets
  • Lending money that is never paid back
  • Undue pressure, duress, threat or undue influence (coercion) put on the person in connection with loans, wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions
  • Arranging less care than is needed to save money to maximise inheritance
  • Someone stopping others helping to manage/monitor financial affairs
  • Refusing to access benefits
  • Misuse of personal allowance in a care home 
  • Misuse of benefits or direct payments in a family home 
  • Someone moving into a person’s home and living rent free without agreement or under duress 
  • False representation, using another person's bank account, cards or documents 
  • Exploitation of a person’s money or assets, e.g. unauthorised use of a car 
  • Misuse of a power of attorney, deputy, appointeeship or other legal authority 
  • Rogue trading, for example, unnecessary or overpriced property repairs and failure to carry out agreed repairs or poor workmanship

How might you recognise financial abuse?

Some examples of are shown below: 

  • Unexplained or sudden inability to pay bills, especially when there is someone appointed to support with this; debt building up
  • Unexplained withdrawal of money from accounts
  • Personal possessions going missing
  • Contrast being known income and actual living conditions
  • Unusual interest by friend/relative/neighbour in financial matters
  • Pressure from next of kin for formal arrangements being set up
  • Receipts not being provided for shopping or other services

What you can do?

  • Be professionally curious and believe the unbelievable
  • Look more closely and ask questions 
  • Ask for proof from anyone who claims to have Lasting Power of Attorney or Deputyship. Consider whether they are acting in the adult's best interests. Please note:  You should contact the Office of the Public Guardian if you suspect abuse or misuse of power by a Lasting Power of Attorney, Enduring Power of Attorney, or a Court Appointed Deputy. 
  • Check how people are managing and safeguarding their affairs
  • At social care reviews, always check whether care bills are being paid and by whom. Non-payment or obstructing financial assessment can be a red flag.
  • Consider the persons mental capacity and any particular risks. MCA applies to people aged 16 and over and is designed to protect and empower people who may lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care, treatment or financial affairs. It is important that if you are asking someone to make a financial decision that you are confident, they have the mental capacity to do so.  Remember capacity is both time and decision specific. A person can have mental capacity to make some decisions but not others. Timely assessment of mental capacity around financial decisions is a crucial step in the protection of adults at risk from financial and material abuse.
  • Making Safeguarding Personal (MSP) is the basis on which all safeguarding work must be taken forward. MSP is about focusing on the personalised outcomes desired by people with care and support needs who may have been abused. It is about person-centred approaches to working with risk. 

Reporting your concerns 

If you identify potential abuse you may be concerned that you have misunderstood the situation or overreacted. This is understandable but you cannot ignore your concerns. Share your concerns with your manager/safeguarding lead without delay.

Financial and material abuse is a crime. Anyone can report a crime or suspected crime to Wiltshire Police on 101 or in an emergency call 999.

Adults at risk may choose not to support action/police action against family or friends, or carers they rely on. However, we still have to consider risks to others from that person, and should always talk through options, to stop it happening again. 

If there are safeguarding concerns regarding an adult with care and support needs, further information about how to refer can be found on the report a concern webpage.