Law reforms to protect older Australians
Our ageing population is growing and more Australians are living with dementia. Unfortunately this means that more of our elders are being subjected to verbal abuse, bullying, harassment and financial abuse than ever before.
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) released a report on 16 June 2017, the day after Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which includes 43 recommendations for law reform. These proposals consider how to best protect older Australians from abuse and to safeguard their autonomy, taking into consideration Commonwealth laws and legal frameworks.
The ALRC outlines the following ways on how this will be achieved:
- introducing an incident response scheme for aged care with an independent body to monitor and oversee investigations and deal with allegations of abuse as well as enhanced employment screening processes
Powers of Attorney and Guardianship
- reforms to laws relating to enduring documents, including introducing nationally consistent safeguards, giving tribunals jurisdiction to award compensation when duties are breached; and establishing a national online register
- recommendations that tribunals be given authority regarding ‘assets for care’ arrangements to protect the older person if the promise of ongoing care is not fulfilled or the family relationship breaks down
- processes to safeguard self managed super funds (SMSF) in the event of a legal disability by appointing a person’s enduring attorney as trustee/director of their SMSF, including a plan in the operating standards of an SMSF and notifying the Australian Taxation Office in the event of an enduring attorney taking over as trustee/director of the SMSF from the principal
- recommendations for community education about the risks and complications related with ‘do-it-yourself’ wills
- training of staff on how to deal with elder abuse and setting up systems to detect unusual transactions and ensure people are not being financially abused when they guarantee a loan. Have systems in place to check when a form purports to authorise another person to operate someone’s bank account.
Guardianship and administration
- recommendation that private guardians and private administrators sign an undertaking about their obligations and responsibilities
Health & National Disability Insurance Scheme
- discussions to take place on how health professions might be encouraged to respond to elder abuse, i.e. through training
- the Department of Human Services (Cth) to develop an elder abuse strategy
Criminal Justice Responses
- how police respond and helping witnesses who need support
Safeguarding Adults at Risk
- working with at-risk adults to arrange health, medical, legal and other services
This national response on elder abuse begins to address the scale of the problem and measures required to address it. It will also include developing guidelines for legal practitioners in relation to the preparation and execution of wills and other advance planning documents.