Guardians and Administrators who abuse their appointment and act dishonestly for their own financial gain face fines of up to $95,000 and up to five years’ jail under a new Victorian Government Act.
Seniors Rights Victoria is drawing on the experiences of clients to make recommendations to current Royal Commissions into aged care quality and safety and Victoria’s mental health system.
The Australian Government has committed $18.3m over four years to support the delivery of frontline services to people experiencing elder abuse.
Guest speakers will include Victorian Commissioner for Seniors and Ambassador for Elder Abuse Gerard Mansour and Seniors Rights’ peer educator Jennifer Evans.
A visionary Victorian State Government initiative, Seniors Rights Victoria was established by the Victorian Government in 2008 following the review conducted by ex-Senator Barney Cooney. In that year the State Government adopted a state-wide elder abuse strategy – the first state in Australia to do so!
Elder abuse is any act causing harm to an older person by someone they know and trust, such as family and friends.
Now a program of COTA Victoria, Seniors Rights Victoria continues to have a key role in the delivery of the Victorian Government’s Elder Abuse Prevention and Response strategies and initiatives to contribute to the response, prevention and education of elder abuse in Victoria.
In 10 years Seniors Rights Victoria has achieved:
- 22,063 calls to our Helpline
- 29,182 participants in community education sessions
- 12,247 participants in professional development sessions
- And produced nine different information sheets, and the booklet, Care for Your Assets: Money, Ageing & Family.
The Royal Commission into Family Violence was another significant initiative of the current Government, with the 2016 report and arising family violence reforms clearly identified elder abuse as a form of family violence. The impact has been a growth in awareness of elder abuse and additional older people seeking help.
“We support older people to make positive changes and we learn from them. We also make major contributions to State and Federal government policy and action in this sector,” said Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey.
“We appreciate the respect and positive responses we receive about our service, and from the leadership opportunities to collaborate and share our knowledge.”
The sessions and clinics combined will enable people who have been recently diagnosed with dementia to plan ahead and to make informed choices about their future financial, health or care arrangements, as well as to put those choices into an appropriate legal format. The pilot project will run for a year.
Seniors Rights Victoria will support delivery of the session on Advanced Care Planning and Powers of Attorney (POAs) within the “Living with Dementia” program and as stand along one-off community education sessions. In addition, Seniors Rights Victoria will provide a number of legal clinics for people who have attended a session to provide one-on-one legal and advocacy consultations.
“This will ensure that legal education and advice is based on therapeutic principles and an empowerment approach for the older person, including the provision of support for non-legal issues facing the individual. It will also allow us to screen for elder abuse,” said Seniors Rights Victoria principal Lawyer Rebecca Edwards.
“We’re really excited to be pioneering this approach in collaboration with Dementia Australia – the link between cognitive impairment and elder abuse is well established,” she said.
Ms Edwards said Australian research estimates that up to 10 per cent of older people experience some form of elder abuse and that the incidence is significantly under-reported (Kaspiew et al 2016). In addition, almost one in 10 people over 65 have dementia (NATSEM 2016). For example, recent research has found elder abuse prevalence rates among guardianship clients of 13 per cent in 2013-14 and 21 per cent in 2016-17 (Bedson et al 2018).
The sessions will start in 2019.
Ms Edwards highlighted the story of elder abuse on the frontline, including the benefits of an integrated legal and advocacy social support model, as is used by Seniors Rights Victoria, to assist people experiencing elder abuse.
Other panellists included:
Topics to be covered include: medical decision-making law and recent changes, retirement villages, aged care, wills and elder abuse.
Guest speakers are:
John Corcoran AM, Russell Kennedy Lawyers;
Gary Ferguson, Seniors Rights Victoria;
William Betts, Peninsula Community Legal Centre.
There will be a Q&A session, with morning tea to be provided. For more information and bookings phone 97833600 or book (no charge) via Eventbrite.
For more information download the pdf Legal Matters & Ageing Forum
Law Week is an annual festival of events that makes learning about the law easy. Held in May each year, Law Week has taken place across Victoria since 1980. Presented by the Victoria Law Foundation (VLF) with the support of its Event Partners and sponsors, including Seniors Rights Victoria, Law Week offers Victorians the opportunity to find answers to their legal questions, discover the history of the courts or simply enjoy the spectacle of the law.
Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said the state-wide specialist elder abuse service was pleased to be able to partner to present events. These events raise awareness of elder abuse and the importance of supporting older people appropriately with the decisions being made which affect them.
Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.
“Older people are essential in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families,” Ms Blakey said.
The relevant free events are:
14-17 May: Law Week Hub pop-up: Elder abuse prevention and support, 12:30-2pm daily, at Fed Square, Swanston Street forecourt
Our Helpline advocates will be on hand at the Law Week Festival Hub to provide information about how this service supports older people experiencing elder abuse. No bookings required.
15 May: Legal Matters & Ageing Seminar, 2-4pm, at Orbost Service Centre, 1 Ruskin St
Free seniors seminar covering topics on Enduring Powers of Attorney, Ageism and Planning Ahead. Learn more about your legal rights and options, have your questions answered and receive the free kit Take Control – A Guide to Making Enduring Powers of Attorney. Bookings essential by calling 51523063 or calling into Bairnsdale U3A. Bookings essential by calling 5152 4225 or in person at the library.
Presented by East Gippsland Shire Council and Seniors Rights Victoria.
16 May: Legal Matters & Ageing Seminar, 1-3pm, at Bairnsdale U3A, corner of Service & Rupert St
Free seniors seminar covering topics on Enduring Powers of Attorney, Ageism and Planning Ahead. Learn more about your legal rights and options, have your questions answered and receive the free kit Take Control – A Guide to Making Enduring Powers of Attorney. Bookings essential by calling 51523063 or calling into Bairnsdale U3A.
Presented by East Gippsland Shire Council, Seniors Rights Victoria and Bairnsdale U3A.
, 8:45-10am, at Law Institute of Victoria, Tony Smith Lecture Theatre, Ground Floor, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Seniors Rights Victoria Principal Lawyer Rebecca Edwards and Community Lawyer Tabitha O’Shea presented the case study of Linda, a single, retired academic aged in her 70s, who had agreed to sell her house and contribute 50 per cent, a total of $500,000, to the purchase of a home by her daughter Gina and Gina’s family, husband Mike and two sons. The plan was that Linda would live in a self-contained section of the house. Sadly, once the move was made Linda was subjected to increasing verbal abuse and threats to kick her out of the home.
Unfortunately, as Seniors Rights Victoria workers often discover, Linda was not included on the title of the home. This led to an application to VCAT to determine the ownership of the property and to force a sale. It was a slow, difficult and emotional process to get a better outcome for Linda, whose health deteriorated as a result of the situation.
Ms Edwards said that despite financial recovery in cases like Linda’s, because of the psychological and emotional issues, there were no real ‘winners’ in financial elder abuse, which represent up to a third of all elder abuse cases presenting to Seniors Rights Victoria.
“We were pleased to be able to workshop the potential legal actions in these cases and the supports required by an older person in circumstances such as these to prepare, participate and debrief – after all, they are in dispute with their loved ones and they often feel shame and sadness that the elder abuse has occurred.” Ms Edwards said.
Ms Edwards said the team were happy the workshop met the objectives of speaking at the conference to show how to assess financial elder abuse, how to obtain and present evidence to prove intention, and how to assist an older person to be an effective witness, particularly if they’re experiencing fluctuating health issues.
“We hope all the attendees at the workshop can use this information and approach to create better outcomes for older people experiencing elder abuse,” she said.
To understand more click Law Institute Victoria Law Institute’s Planning Ahead article.
In other legal updates the Victorian Government introduced new laws this week to better protect the rights of adults with disability to make and participate in decisions that affect their lives. The newly Guardianship and Administration Bill 2018 will replace 1986 laws to define decision-making capacity, including a presumption that a person has the capacity to make decisions unless evidence is provided otherwise.
New offences will be created to penalise guardians or administrators who dishonestly use their appointment for financial gain or cause loss to the represented person, attracting a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
The reforms also allow a person to be compensated for a loss caused by a guardian or administrator who breaches their duties.
Victoria Attorney General Martin Pakula said people living with impaired decision-making ability deserve the dignity and independence of being supported to make their own decisions wherever possible.
“We’re modernising the definition of decision-making to ensure Victorians with disability aren’t subjected to arbitrary and unnecessary intrusions on their right to make decisions affecting their lives,” he said. For more information click Guardianship Laws Overhauled.