Protecting older Australians from financial abuse
Suncorp’s Keith Howard has dedicated his career towards supporting victims of elder abuse. This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, he speaks about our role in helping our older Australians at a time when social isolation is at its peak.
As people get older, they often turn to family members or carers for support – and this includes support with their finances and life savings.
Sadly, for some, this trust is violated.
Each year, it’s estimated between 2% and 10% of older Australians experience elder abuse, which could include physical mistreatment, psychological harm and, most commonly, financial abuse. Surprisingly, close relatives account for 80% suspected cases, and many cases go unreported as a result.
Customer Support Specialist Keith Howard has been working for Suncorp for 38 years. He has dedicated much of that time towards understanding the impact of elder abuse on our customers, developing prevention strategies and redesigning our processes to ensure victims get the individual care they need.
“Older people can be socially isolated and they place a lot of trust in others to help them, so they are at greater risk of financial abuse, scams and fraud,” Mr Howard said.
“These customers need extra care and compassion. They’re often very fearful and uncertain of the outcome of an investigation into their circumstances, so they need a lot of reassurance.”
I just think that if this was my own family member, I would want to know someone at their bank cares and are getting them the best result. I love being able to show our customers compassion and help restore their faith in people.
Keith Howard, Suncorp Customer Support Specialist
Mr Howard and the rest of our Customer Support team do vital work with vulnerable customers who are faced with tough and sometimes life-altering circumstances.
Keen to make sure customers get the right support and information, Mr Howard works closely with external services like the Office of the Public Guardian to ensure our customers have access to expert support networks.
“Sometimes customers need ongoing psychosocial or financial counselling so there’s such a great benefit in having close relationships with community partners – we can work together to get the right outcome.”
Matt Leslie, Suncorp’s Group Customer Advocate, said elder abuse is of increasing concern due to Australia’s aging population, and more recently, because of COVID-19 isolation measures.
"Elder abuse is a public health problem affecting our community and it’s important we take steps to properly protect and care for older Australians. The effects can be detrimental financially, mentally and physically,” Mr Leslie said.
“We all play a pivotal role in identifying and preventing elder abuse. We need to be acutely aware of any signs that might indicate that our customers are experiencing vulnerable circumstances. We have a responsibility to protect what matters for our older customers and community and we take that very seriously.”
Mr Howard said what he loves most about his role is being able to help our customers and make a difference.
“I just think that if this was my own family member, I would want to know someone at their bank cares and they are getting them the best result in the easiest, least stressful way possible. I love being able to show our customers compassion and help restore their faith in people”.
If you suspect you or a family member are experiencing elder abuse, contact our Customer Support team on 1800 317 517.