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New guidance to help social workers and carers spot signs of people falling victim to scam mail and doorstep conmen have been published by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).

ADASS argues that while family, friends and neighbours have an important role to play in avoiding scams and abuse it is essential that carers and healthcare professionals, including social workers, are trained to recognise and respond to signs of elder abuse.

Fraudsters target the elderly

The document, Financial Abuse and Scams: Guidance for Councillors, Directors, Managers and Social Work Practitioners, was published to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15.

It comes amid concerns that financial abuse – which can see vulnerable elderly adults conned out of thousands of pounds – is on the increase.

Fraudsters, including bogus doorstep callers and scam mail firms, often target older people whose health can suffer after falling victim to a scam, leading to extra costs on the health and social care sector.

Abuse affects 500,000 old people every year in the UK and government data suggests those defrauded in their homes are two-and-a-half times more likely to enter residential care within two years, compared to older people who are not victims of fraud.
Research by Age UK also shows that 53% of older people believe they have been targeted by fraudsters, with a third having lost £1,000 or more.

Conversational approach

ADASS has worked with the Local Government Association, Adult Principal Social Worker Network and National Trading Standards to publish the guidance to raised awareness of financial abuse and scams and improve safeguarding practices.

The guidance features case studies on successful interventions involving council trading standards teams. It also underlines the importance of listening to the concerns of elderly people when they talk of financial scams and advises social workers to take a conversational approach, rather than asking structured questions, to sensitively obtain information regarding the scams.

Duty to prevent abuse

ADASS Vice-president Glen Garrod said: “Safeguarding adults at risk of abuse or neglect is one of the most important things that Social Services and their partners do and is a top priority at ADASS.

“Carers, families and neighbours need to be more aware of abuse, which can see older and disabled people lose their life savings and suffer deteriorating health after falling victim to scam letters and phone calls and doorstep fraudsters.”

The Care Act 2014 places local authorities under a duty to take steps to prevent people with care and support needs being subject to abuse.

Improved information sharing between health and social care agencies, and robust risk assessments and record keeping will help to minimise the risk of, and identify, potential signs of abuse, says ADASS.

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