Safeguarding Ireland says the public needs to be vigilant to avoid increased financial abuse during the Covid-19 crisis.
The independent agency is especially worried about the use of ‘temporary agents’ for banking and welfare payments.
It is estimated internationally that between 10 and 20% of agents abuse their position.
Safeguarding Ireland chairwoman Patrica Rickard-Clarke said it was most important that people were safe and stayed at home during the pandemic.
However, people needed to be careful so that the temporary financial measures that came into effect at banks and post offices did not lead to greater financial abuse.
“Financial abuse is happening at a higher incidence than most people realise,” said Ms Rickard-Clarke.
Research commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland and Banking and Payments Federation Ireland last November found that up to 20% of adults have experienced financial abuse.
The HSE national safeguarding office reported almost 12,000 cases of alleged adult abuse in 2018, with financial abuse particularly prevalent among older age groups.
People should keep control of their finances as much as possible and terminate any temporary arrangement as soon as possible, said Ms Rickard-Clarke
Because of the coronavirus crisis, temporary agents at banks and post offices have become necessary to allow third parties to carry out financial transactions for people who are self-isolating or cocooning.
[readmore]993858[readmore]Ms Rickard-Clarke urged their use with caution and only as a temporary measure.Safeguarding Ireland is advising against establishing joint bank accounts. It urges people to explore other measures before using a temporary agent and to be especially careful if using one.“In as much as possible, people, particularly those who are vulnerable, should keep control of their own finances,” she said.In many cases, she said, people could pay pharmacists or local shops themselves by phone with a third party collecting, rather than handing over their debit or credit card.Forms giving agents consent to collect pensions and other welfare payments at post offices should be carefully used, one at a time. The forms should be dated and signed and a person’s public service card returned after each use.The agency that seeks to protect vulnerable adults from all forms of abuse has welcomed the guidance developed by banks for cocooning customers.Banks now have helplines to support people on the safe management of their finances.Meanwhile, Sage Advocacy said challenges faced by the nursing and home care sectors in the Covid-19 crisis highlighted the need for a new single-tier care system.The organisation, which works with vulnerable adults, said a single statutory system would cover care in all nursing homes, people’s homes, community hospitals and high support housing.Sage Advocacy’s executive director, Mervyn Taylor, said even publicly funded sectors should not be allowed to develop on its own.Mr Taylor said it had become very clear that private nursing homes must be integrated into the wider framework of health and social care with shared guidelines on nursing staffing, skill levels and medical care.The system should also be biased towards home care, which is where people want to live and to die, he said.Mr Taylor said the programme for government needed to be informed by what was being learned at this time.Also, implementation of Sláintecare should consider long term support and care for older people and people with disabilities as well as acute hospitals.