The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch launched research today that reveals that 21% of older people in Northern Ireland are likely to be experiencing some form of financial abuse. The shocking figure is taken from the Commissioner’s research report ‘Financial Abuse of Older People in Northern Ireland: The Unsettling Truth’ and was launched at the Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland Conference ‘Financially Safe and Secure’ in the Dunadry Hotel, Antrim.
Speaking to delegates from a range of private, public and voluntary sectors, the Commissioner expressed his shock at the survey figures and the need for action to be taken.
Financial abuse takes many forms including theft, withholding pension or benefits or even exerting pressure around wills, property or inheritance. Whilst scams were also included in the survey questionnaire, they were not included in the final survey figures. This is due to the fact that whilst they could indicate that financial abuse might be likely to occur, they were not enough on their own.
Over 1000 older people across Northern Ireland were surveyed in relation to financial abuse. They were asked 29 direct questions in relation to their personal finances, money-management and decision-making in the last 12 months. From the survey, which was carried out by Perceptive Insight, it is clear that some respondents have experienced a range of different types of financial abuse. The survey sample was representative of Northern Ireland’s older population and indicates that over 75,000 older people are experiencing some form of financial abuse here.
Speaking about the figures, the Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch said:
“I was both shocked and saddened that 1 in 5 older people in Northern Ireland are experiencing some form of financial abuse. In my role as Commissioner for Older People I have seen the devastating impact that financial abuse can have on older people. Aside from the financial loss itself, this crime affects the emotional wellbeing of older people, bringing with it feelings of betrayal, embarrassment and fear.
“In November last year, my office organised a discussion with a wide range of organisations, professionals, academics and others working on the issue. It became clear that whilst everyone acknowledged that financial abuse is a problem, there was much confusion around the scale and scope of the problem. To date, there has been no region-wide study examining the prevalence of financial abuse against older people. I undertook this research so that for the very first time in Northern Ireland, we can capture the scale of the problem.
“21% of older people surveyed confirmed they had experienced issues indicating financial abuse, ranging from feeling pressured into buying something to family trying to prevent spending in order to maximise their inheritance. This figure is even more alarming when you consider that under reporting is common with financial abuse. This is because it is often difficult and painful for older people to report the crime, especially when the perpetrator is a trusted person. However, I must stress that most older people are loved and valued by their neighbours, friends and relatives who care for them, with their best interests at heart.
“Over the next four years of my term I am committed to further examining this issue. I will continue to work with experts on further data mapping in order to identify critical areas where action is needed.
“The findings of this report must underpin action to tackle financial abuse across Northern Ireland. Government and those working with older people now have an indication of the scale of the problem and must work together to combat this terrible crime. It is time to put a stop to this type of abuse that whilst often hidden, has a significant impact on the lives of older people.”
Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland Director, Veronica Gray closed the conference and concluded:
“Financial abuse can ruin an older person’s life. The main message we need to get out there is simple: recognise it, report it, stop it. Action on Elder Abuse exists to help older people and their families who are experiencing abuse and we can support people through what can be a very difficult process.”
To view a copy of ‘Financial Abuse of Older People in Northern Ireland: The Unsettling Truth’ please click here