Press Release: AEA Northern Ireland warns recent reports of financial elder abuse are just the tip of the iceberg
Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland warns that recent reports of financial elder abuse are just the tip of the iceberg
12th April 2016, Belfast, Following two recent high-profile media reports, Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland (AEA Northern Ireland) is encouraging both older people and their friends and family to be alert to the prevalence of financial elder abuse.
Last week, former GP Michelle Mellotte was handed a suspended sentence after being found guilty of exploiting and defrauding a vulnerable older patient, from whom she borrowed £10,000. The loan from Michael McGrory, who was over 70 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s, was only repaid after police intervention, and Mellotte was subsequently charged with occupying a position in which she was expected to safeguard the financial interests of the pensioner and dishonestly abusing that position to obtain the money. Mr McGrory was described as a “vulnerable individual with ailing mental and physical health”.
On 6th April 2016, Antrim Crown Court heard how former domiciliary care worker Louise McAllister took advantage of the good relationship she had built up with a couple in her care by asking them for money. After driving the pair to a building society to withdraw cash, she took £1,000 from them. The judge described her acceptance of the money from a 99-year-old man (who has since died) and his elderly wife, who has dementia, as “deeply chilling”.
Veronica Gray, Director of Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland, said “It is truly sickening that last week alone we have heard of two separate accounts of people in caring professions abusing their position to financially exploit vulnerable older people for their own gain. The fact that the money was eventually repaid in both cases is irrelevant to the fact that exploitation on the basis of age and ill-health has taken place and been perpetrated by individuals in positions of trust. We would call on the agencies involved in these cases to examine how such unscrupulous acts could have been committed by their staff, and to take immediate steps to prevent any reoccurrence.
“While we are delighted to see both cases coming to the attention of criminal justice, we know that there are many more cases of financial elder abuse being perpetrated, and many victims who do not have access to support and help. These cases are truly just the tip of the iceberg. In just one year, our UK-wide Elder Abuse Response Helpline received reports of financial elder abuse that amounted to the theft of over £18 million in cash or property.
Today we are reaching out to the public, asking them to be vigilant and alert to any concerns of elder abuse. Where there are concerns, no matter how small they may seem, they can be discussed on the confidential, Freephone Elder Abuse Response Helpline on 080 8808 8141. Help is just a phone call away”.
Financial abuse covers a broad spectrum and can include the actual or attempted theft, fraud or burglary and the misappropriation or misuse of money, property or assets. This may include exploitation, embezzlement, withholding pension or benefits, or pressure exerted around wills, property or inheritance. Both men and women are affected by abuse, and the risk of harm exists in all social, racial and ethnic groups.
Action on Elder Abuse is the only charity in the United Kingdom working exclusively on the prevention of elder abuse.
For more information contact:
Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland
Tel: 0749 666 3816
For press enquiries, please contact:
Tel: 0208 835 9285
Or visit the Action on Elder Abuse website: www.elderabuse.org.uk
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Notes to editors:
For further information on this release, please call 020 8835 9283
- Action on Elder Abuse is a UK-wide charity with a presence in all four nations. It aims to protect and prevent the abuse of vulnerable older people by raising awareness of the issues, encouraging education and giving information and support to those in need. It has the only national freephone helpline dedicated to this cause, open Monday to Friday between the hours of 9.00am and 5.00pm on 080 8808 8141 for confidential support and information. Website: www.elderabuse.org.uk
- With funds from the Big Lottery, in 2015 Action on Elder Abuse established staff in Northern Ireland to highlight and challenge the abuse of older people. Veronica Gray is Director of AEA Northern Ireland.
- The UK Study of the Abuse and Neglect of Older People, commissioned by Comic Relief and the Department of Heath, indicated that 4% of older people in Northern Ireland experienced abuse at home. Secondary analysis published by Comic Relief at the end of 2013 indicated that 8.6% of older people across the UK experience abuse at home.
- Elder abuse includes physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse and neglect. It can often be a criminal act but is not often prosecuted.
- World Elder Abuse Awareness Day happens each year on 15th June, and is organised in the UK by Action on Elder Abuse. It is a dedicated UN-recognised awareness day, with events happening all around the globe.