7 December 2020

Stronger laws, new resources aim to reduce elder abuse in the community

| Dominic Giannini
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Elderly man

New laws and resources have been introduced to reduce elder abuse. Photo: File.

It will become easier for vulnerable Canberrans to legally protect themselves with new amendments giving the ACT Public Trustee and Guardian the power to request financial records and assist in preventing abuse.

Those who are dependent on others to assist them with financial transactions through a power of attorney are susceptible to coercion and neglect when these powers are abused. Records of these transactions will now be able to be requested under the new law, providing greater transparency and a path to prosecution if a vulnerable person has been abused.

People with power of attorney will be required to keep records of transactions, and keep their property separate from the person they are overseeing to help increase accountability.

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The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal will also have the ability to revoke or suspend an enduring power of attorney.

“These amendments will help protect the rights of senior Canberrans, including those who may be facing elder abuse,” Assistant Minister for Families and Community Services Emma Davidson said.

“Senior Canberrans who are reliant on others to carry out important transactions on their behalf will be able to request records from their attorney, and these records may also be required to be produced the Public Trustee and Guardian or Public Advocate.

“This will improve the ability of senior Canberrans to enforce their rights and reduce the risk of elder abuse.”

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The amendments were tabled on the International Day of People with Disability (3 December) and just days after the ACT released three publications to help elderly and vulnerable Canberrans understand their rights and access information about common legal issues they face.

The 2021 Older Persons ACT Legal Service Diary covers matters like the rights of residents in retirement villages, tenancy rights, estate planning and scam awareness.

The Capacity Guidelines help legal practitioners decide whether a person has the capacity to undertake a decision while the Toolkit provides useful resources for those who have concerns about the ability of an adult to make decisions for themselves.

Gordon Ramsay and Jenny Mobbs

COTA CEO Jenny Mobbs (right; pictured with the former Seniors Minister Gordon Ramsay) has welcomed the new resources. Photo: Supplied.

“These new resources reflect our commitment to people understanding their rights and protecting the interests and dignity of those who require support to make decisions,” Legal Aid ACT’s Chief Executive Officer John Boersig said

The new publications were also welcomed by Council on the Ageing ACT Chief Executive Officer Jenny Mobbs.

“Navigating the legal system can be a daunting experience, but the diary launched today will provide older members of our community with helpful advice they can use as a starting point,” Ms Mobbs said.

“The diary is a practical resource that is easy to understand and easy to access, and alongside the Capacity Guidelines and Toolkit, will help vulnerable people engage more effectively with legal issues facing them.”

The Legal Capacity Guidelines and Toolkit are available at Legal Aid ACT and the Disability Justice Strategy.

Hard copies are available through Legal Aid.

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