Protecting those with dementia from scams

Today, 15th June, is World Elder Abuse Day – a day which aims to focus global attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of older generations. The 2017 theme underscores the importance of preventing financial exploitation.

In his guest blog Paul Holland, Principal Prevention Officer with East Renfrewshire Council talks about an upcoming project to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation.


On World Elder Abuse Day it is important to recognise tackling scams and protecting older people from financial harm as a big part of promoting a good later life for all. This is something I am very much aware of in my role in The Prevention Team for East Renfrewshire Council.  I have seen the terrible consequences of older people being the victims of scams, but I’ve also seen the benefits to older people of taking relatively simple measures to protect them from nuisance calls and scammers.

Seeing the benefits to older people of protecting them from scammers made me determined to ensure that more is done throughout Scotland to protect vulnerable people from financial abuse. That’s why I am delighted to be the Co-Ordinator of a new project funded by the Life Changes Trust to work in collaboration with Angus and South Ayrshire Council, to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation. We are also looking forward to working with Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project to ensure the Charity’s member groups have more information about our work, as it will benefit very many older people and not only people with dementia.

People living with dementia are at great risk of falling prey to scammers and carers are often very worried about how to prevent their relative becoming a victim of a scam, particularly in the early stages of dementia when a person still has capacity but may not always have sufficient understanding to exercise good judgement.

The aim of this project is to offer people with dementia an individualised, person-centred package to safeguard them from financial exploitation, on the doorstep, by telephone, by mail or online.

Each local authority area will bring together local and national organisations to develop and deliver a package of preventive measures, including practical solutions and various types of useful technology, for example, call blockers. Call blockers screen incoming phone calls and either block any unknown or unauthorised numbers or transfer them to a nominated family member or guardian.

It’s vital that all adults know about what can be done to protect themselves from scams, particularly older adults, as unfortunately it is often older people who are targeted, and scammers are becoming increasing sophisticated. You can find out more about our activity to stop scams on our website. This provides advice if you are worried that you, a friend or a relative may be vulnerable to scams; tired of cold callers at the door and on the phone; looking to hire reputable traders; or want to know how to keep safe and secure in the home and online.

Over the course of our project we are also looking forward to developing more advice and information for the Charity’s member groups. Working together there is a lot we can do to stop the scammers and ensure that there are fewer victims of financial abuse.

If you have been a victim of a scam or want advice about a suspicious contact telephone Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.  If in doubt check it out!

 

 

 

A New Future for Social Security – Age Scotland submission

Age Scotland has put forward an wide-ranging submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future for social security in Scotland.

The charity endorses the basic principle that social security should be seen as an investment in the people of Scotland and in strengthening our social fabric.  We propose models which should exhibit trust in people and respect for their dignity.

We advocate an end to rules which are probably discriminatory based on age – such as the lack of a mobility component for attendance allowance, unlike other disability benefits – and we support the principle that universal winter fuel payments are the most effective means of reaching those most in need of support.

The submission is extensive, comprising some 56 pages, although the consultation paper was over 140 pages long and posed over 170 questions.  It is the most detailed policy submission which the charity or its predecessors have ever compiled.

The submission gives the charity’s perspective on a wide range of specific benefits affecting older people which are being devolved (including disability and carer’s benefits, funeral payments, and winter fuel payments).

It also deals with a series of administrative matters on how eligibility should be worked out, how benefits should be paid, and the overarching principles and intended outcomes which should be a focus for the new system.

Another important aspect is ensuring that the new devolved system works well with the other benefits which will remain reserved to the UK Parliament and Government, and administered by the DWP, JobCentres and the Pension Service.  Clearly it is important for there to be no disruption to payments on which vulnerable people depend, either as the responsibility is transferred or as changes the Scottish Government intends to make are implemented.

The response was informed by the views and experiences of older people themselves, which we gathered at eight distinct consultation events around the country, and also the expertise of our policy staff and helpline advisors, who regularly support older people with benefits concerns and queries.  We aim to use this invaluable information in our further discussions with Government Ministers and officials as the policies take shape and legislation is prepared to give effect to them.

Download our submission


Please feel free to share any views you have by emailing policycomms@agescotland.org.uk

Quality of Life on the Isle of Shapinsay

Toni Giugliano, Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement & Campaign Officer, recently headed to Orkney as part of his work around quality of life in later life in partnership with Stirling University. 


Earlier this month the Quality of Life Project took me to Shapinsay in Orkney. It was a unique opportunity to gather the views of older people about what makes a good life in later years in a rural and remote part of the country.

I was humbled by the extremely warm welcome I received by the organisers and participants. I was picked up from the ferry terminal in the community electric car and whisked along to the “Boathouse” – a fantastic community space where we were protected from the ultra-strong winds (which locals told me were not, in fact, that strong at all!).

In total, eight residents took part in the discussions, which explored several themes, including health and wellbeing, the importance of a close-knit community, relationships, care, transport, personal independence and the role of older people in society.

Below are some statements that came out of the discussions:

“Befriending services are a lifeline – even if you have a close family, often you feel like you don’t want to impose on them. You want to be independent, and a befriender won’t pass judgement.”

“Pass times are so important once you reach a certain age – they give you a focus, a purpose in life, a reason to be on this world.”

“As you become older, you enter a different category. You are likely to become slightly invisible.”

“Many people who once had a social status during their working life tend to lose it once they reach a certain age.”

“Older people still have a lot to contribute to society.”

“There should be incentives for volunteers to take on home care visits and spend some time chatting to people. The home visits you get only last 15 minutes – it’s just not enough. You want to get to know a person and have a chat with them. With the current system they just don’t have enough time to do that.”

“The cost of the ferry is too much; it’s not affordable. Other islands (local authorities) get a better deal”.

“We’ve had to fight hard on this island for the services we have. We need to stay on the ball and continue to do that if we want to keep them.”

It was particularly interesting to hear about the work of the Shapinsay Development Trust and the activities and services it runs to improve the lives of people on the island, including social activities to combat loneliness and isolation. The Sew Shapinsay project, for example, is a great social activity bringing many people together.

The Shapinsay focus group discussion, like all other focus groups that have taken place across the country, will soon be analysed by our researcher teams (who themselves are older people). The project seeks to: (i) explore what older people believe the essence of a good life is; and (ii) lobby decision makers to improve policies that support older people as they age.

Whilst in Orkney I took the opportunity to visit the Age Scotland office in Kirkwall to discuss the Scottish Government’s Social Security Consultation and how the proposed changes are likely to impact older people. We received a number of responses which helped shape our submission. For more information on this, see the relevant pages of our website.


The Quality of Life Project is funded by the Life Changes Trust. To find out more about the project, visit our website.

Now & Next: Planning for later life with Age Scotland

Age Scotland’s chief exec Brian Sloan explains why to truly love later life, you have to be prepared, as we launch our new brand for those aged 50-65.


 

“You get training at every stage in life except for retirement”. This was the opening line by Helen, a volunteer who was running a Planning for Your Future workshop, and around the room you could see the sentiment resonating.

Brian_Sloan

You go to school to train for college or work. Once in work, you never stop training to keep abreast of health and safety, company policy or any of the myriad of ways that help you to do your job. Yet when you retire, you’re given your leaving present and off you go. For most people, this means going from a structured 40 hour week to absolutely nothing; you’ve looked forward to retirement for years, now off you go and do it. Yet retirement isn’t a thing you can just do, and that’s where Age Scotland can help.

In July 2014, the former Scottish Pre-retirement Council and the Tayside Pre-retirement Council joined forces with Age Scotland. Since then, we have been offering Planning for Your Future workshops aimed at the 50-65 age demographic. It might be a bit of a stretch to get your head around but an older people’s charity was after a younger demographic! Up until that point, Age Scotland was seen as a charity for the over 65s, but to truly love later life then you need to start planning well before then. So we gave the format a revamp to make it more interactive, relevant and thought provoking for today’s 21st century 50-65 year old and created Now & Next as the brand identity to speak to this audience.

Now and Next

When I’ve been along to workshops, I hear so many people say they that they had hopes for retirement but were not sure how to achieve them. And whilst these workshops can’t promise to make your dreams come true, they can at least help you plan a course of action to achieving them. Whether it is financial, legal or health goals, if you only start planning the day before you retire you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

Helen is one of the volunteers that helps to facilitate the "Planning for Later Life" workshops.

Helen is one of our volunteers that helps to facilitate the “Planning for Later Life” workshops. Click here to find out more.

What’s more important is that planning for later life is not just about you. Living a balanced, happy and healthy retirement means you can improve the quality of life of those around you. Looking after grandkids, supporting your children or giving back to your community, later life should be the time you do what you want to do, so get on and plan it! If you want to know more about Now & Next visit our website, nowandnext.scot or watch Helen’s story (above). She’s one of the many volunteers who run our workshops, someone who has learned from the mistakes she made by not planning more carefully in advance and wants to help others step positively into their next life stage.


 

If you would like to find out more about Now and Next or the Planning for Later Life courses, just contact Stacey Kitzinger on stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk or call 0333 32 32 400.

Raising awareness of elder abuse in BME communities

Age Scotland has supported the development of a new information pack designed to raise awareness about elder abuse within Black & Ethnic Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.

The pack, launched this week by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, has been published by the Older People Services Development Project following a consultation on what has been a hidden and unspoken issue.

The Lottery-funded Project – jointly run by the Trust Housing Association, Hanover (Scotland) Housing Association and Bield Housing and Care – has developed this information in partnership with Age Scotland to generate wider awareness of these issues, and to help identify signs of elder abuse or neglect within BME communities.

Speaking at the Elder Abuse Information Seminar in Glasgow, the Justice Secretary said: “It is profoundly chilling to think of older people in our society facing neglect and abuse.

“The information pack being launched today is a vital part of the strong, positive, message we need to get out to all victims of abuse in Scotland – you are not alone.

“The challenges identified and addressed by this information pack will play a vital role in assisting the elderly, in helping them plan for the future and feed in to our shared goal of building stronger and more resilient communities.”

The consultation revealed that, contrary to the perception BME communities ‘always look after their own’, this group of older people can face a range of difficulties. Indeed, it is sometimes the traditional reliance on family that can leave some older BME people vulnerable to financial, mental or emotional abuse.

Rohini Sharma Joshi, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion/ Manager of Trust Housing Association, said: “In BME communities, older people may already experience isolation and confusion through language and cultural barriers, and can also be denied financial independence and the means to access support or social services.

“Afraid to speak out for fear of abandonment, some of these older BME people are even unaware the problems they experience are actually termed as abuse.

Age Scotland Chief Executive Brian Sloan said:  “It is vital that we encourage those experiencing elder abuse to seek help, however, many people may not know where to turn to, especially if the person responsible is a relative or carer.

“That’s why Age Scotland was keen to ensure our Fact Sheet on Elder Abuse reached the widest possible audience.  This partnership ensures older people from across Scotland’s BME communities can access the same resources irrespective of language or access barriers.”

Superintendent Gavin Philip from Police Scotland, said “Police Scotland is committed to working with all communities to help understand the impact of elder abuse issues or concerns this problem raises.

“This seminar was an excellent opportunity to reiterate our commitment to tacking those issues and to listen to people’s concerns, with the focus being on the particular aspects surrounding elder abuse within BME communities.”

Pensions and Independence

We recently held an debate on the Scottish Referendum in Glasgow and one on the main concerns arising was that of pensions after independence…

Pensions are an extremely important issue for older people, but they are also a highly complex area. When added to the inherent uncertainty and partiality which pervades the independence debate, it’s not surprising that older people may struggle to get the grasp they want on what independence might mean for them.

The Scottish Government’s own white paper on pensions and independence published last September, and further details appeared in the referendum white paper Scotland’s Future published in November. Age Scotland wrote about this last year.

The Scotland Office and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published the latest in the UK Government’s Scotland Analysis series on Thursday 24 April. It relies on an analysis of current pensions and benefits spending both in Scotland and across the UK, and long-term projections of how these might change in future based on demographic trends. It also factors in the proposed changes which the Scottish Government wants to make to pensions and working-age benefits if there is a Yes vote in September.

The UK Government’s analysis is that Scotland already gains £60 more per head of population per year in welfare spending than the rest of the UK, and that an independent Scotland would face higher pension costs per head of population – up to £450 extra per person per year. Despite Scotland’s lower life expectancy – which makes pensions more affordable if people die earlier – they claim that Scotland’s overall spend on welfare would cost it an extra £1.4 billion per year by 2035 – 8% more than is currently spent here.

There would also be costs in setting up and maintaining the infrastructure needed to run an independent Scotland’s own social security system. An independent Scotland might not automatically gain all of the UK Government’s assets in Scotland – such as the network of JobCentres – or take on public pensions staff working in Glasgow and Dundee. And the UK-wide IT system is based on consistent benefit structures, payment levels and eligibility tests. If an independent Scotland wanted to change these – and the Scottish Government certainly does – then there could be substantial set-up costs which Scotland would have to find.

The UK Government claims the Scottish Government should tell people how these costs would be afforded. The Scottish Government rejects the analysis as either incorrect or exaggerated.

Older people simply want to know what independence might mean for their standard of living, so it can inform their vote. So the continual arguing over the facts can be both frustrating and confusing. Age Scotland will continue to try to help to inform the debate, and we will be publishing responses from the two campaigns to questions we posed them in the next issue of Advantage magazine and on our website, www.agescotland.org.uk. But with certainty an unlikely prospect, older voters might be left wondering which version of events seems more likely and whom they are more likely to trust.

 

Hands off universal pensioner benefits

By Agnes McGroarty from the Scottish Seniors Alliance

‘Hands Off’ is the clear message coming from older people across Scotland, as a new UK wide campaign was launched last month defending the need for universal pensioner benefits.

Agnes McGroarty

Agnes McGroarty

The Hands Off campaign, which has already been backed by some of the most influential older people’s organisations in the UK, aims to safeguard benefits such as the winter fuel payment, bus pass, free prescriptions and TV licences after the 2015 general election.

Following comments made by the main political parties at Westminster indicating these benefits may be under threat, this campaign will emphasise their importance in achieving a decent standard of living for millions of pensioners across the UK, whilst also highlighting the costs and barriers associated with means-testing such benefits.

I would encourage people of all ages to sign the online e-petition and to email their local MP via the campaign website at www.handsoff.org.uk. If the e-petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

Clearly, a debate would raise the profile of this issue with the current coalition government and amongst other UK political parties who may be in power following the 2015 general election. The real reason why pensioners need additional benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and the free bus pass is because our state pension is so poor. Yet despite this, every year older people add an extra £40bn to the economy in taxes, volunteering and unpaid caring. Universal benefits help to keep people active, independent, warm in their homes, healthy and involved in their communities. Universal benefits need to be defended not only for today’s pensioners, but for the pensioners of tomorrow as well.

During the last year, pensioners have felt under constant attack. The myth that older people have escaped any austerity measures is totally groundless, and we will fight to ensure there are no further cuts or means testing of vital benefits such as the winter fuel payment, bus pass, free prescriptions or TV licences. We call on every individual, regardless of age, to support us in our campaign to ensure these benefits are maintained for pensioners now and in the years to come.

We must make our voice heard now! Millionaire pensioners have been used as justification for further cuts or means-testing, but this campaign represents the views of real pensioners who are already struggling to make ends meet.

The Hands Off campaign is being officially backed by the Scottish Seniors Alliance, the National Pensioners’ Convention, Age Sector Platform in Northern Ireland and the Welsh Senate of Older People. For more information on the campaign, and to sign the e-petition, please visit www.handsoff.org.uk.

This was taken from our Magazine Advantage. Soap Box columns do not necessarily reflect Age Scotland’s views or policies. To submit an article call Advantage on 0845 833 0200 or email advantage@agescotland.org.uk.