Last week You&Yours (Radio Four) had an interesting article led by a listener who had discovered that over many years his sibling had been withdrawing large amounts of his mother’s money out of her savings account, probably without her knowledge and/or consent. The piece highlighted the difficulties in addressing this kind of financial abuse as the police are often reluctant to get involved with what they perceive to be a family dispute. I spoke to a caller once who had experienced a similar situation – expecting to inherit about £50,000 when his mother died he was disamyed to discover that the savings account was empty. An investigation revealed that five years earlier his sister had taken their mother to the bank and got her name onto her mum’s bank account through what is called a Third Party Mandate. The caller was sure his mother had no idea what this change to her account meant and would have been horrified to learn that it had enabled his sister to tranfer large sums of cash into her own account.
After the event it is quite difficult to prove that a family member has essentially been stealing money, and of course there will be cases where a sibling is simply annoyed that their inheritance has vanished when in fact the person with dementia WAS happy for a sibling to enjoy their money while they were still alive. Proving that someone DIDN’T say ‘Here’s my cash card, help yourself’ is tricky. But You&Yours was right to draw our attention to the issue – financial abuse is the most common form of abuse of vulnerable adults and we need to make sure that social services and the police take allegations of theft seriously.