Fri 07 Jun 2019

Financial Abuse, would you know it if you saw it?

In October 2018 UK Finance and the Building Societies Association launched.

They considered the research of both Age UK and Refuge when pulling together this code. You may have done a double take at seeing Age UK there. Financial abuse can come in many forms including both domestic and elder abuse. Along with the code of practice an information leaflet was launched entitled 'It's your money'. The cover page alone blasts away societal misconceptions about financial abuse:

  • 'She said if I told anyone else, she'd stop visiting and tell the other carer to stay away too.'
  • 'I didn't know that when my grandson was taking £40 out every week for my shopping he had been taking £100 instead.'
  • 'My ex took out a credit card and loan in my name and she spent the whole lot without me even knowing.'
  • 'I wasn't allowed to know any of our online bank account details. I had no way of knowing what money we had.'

Staff working in bank branches often have concerns about their customers being taken advantage of but who do they tell and how they escalate their concerns?

The code sets out six principles that financial services firms have signed up to:

  1. Raising awareness and encouraging disclosure

  2. Training staff, particularly those who work in branches or telephone banking

  3. Identifying financial abuse and taking appropriate action
  4. Making the customer aware of the other parts of the organisation that have been made aware of their circumstances to reduce the need for the customer to keep having to repeat their story across the same organisation
  5. Help to regain control of finances
  6. Signposting and referrals, be that pointing customers to specialist help or reporting suspicions to relevant bodies

The code isn't a magic wand. There is a lot of work to be done. More than six months have passed since the code was launched. There hasn't been an overnight culture shift but that doesn't mean that the code should be overlooked. The code should trigger conversations about how to make things better. Whether you're directly affected, concerned about a friend or relative, concerned about a customer or working in a risk team thinking 'we aren't doing enough about this', use the code as a building block to get to the right place.

For more about other consumer vulnerability issues please see here

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