This blog post has been bubbling away in the back of my brain for a few months now. It is also a blog post which I am actually the least qualified person to write as I have no direct experience of the topic – as yet.
A few months ago we were talking at Scribbles when Mike Southwell told us a horrifying story about a man who he knew and their Bank Account.
I cannot remember the exact details of the whole story but I will tell you what I do remember.
The man was what would be considered a Vulnerable Adult. He also had a Bank Account. For some reason (which escapes me at the moment) if the man wanted to get some money out of an ATM he asked passing strangers to type his PIN in. Eventually, it was noticed that quite substantial amounts of money had gone missing from his Bank Account (the man only withdrew small amounts). This is where the problem started.
As Mike pointed out – Banks don't disclose details of Bank Accounts to anybody except the person named as the Account Holder. That is fair enough you might say – and I would agree with you in most cases.
But what happens when you have someone with Bipolar who is in their Manic cycle, or, like Mike's friend above, they are seen as having Mental capacity but need physical help with certain things??? Or if they can be classed as a Vulnerable Adult for any other reason???
At the moment there only appear to be two solutions to the problem (both of which remove the independence of the vulnerable person to a greater or lesser extent). You can either go for “Power of Attorney” or you can open a joint Bank Account.
However, they are both things you have to do. The Bank wouldn't get involved in any other way (except when they start charging for unauthorised overdrafts).
I was discussing this with another friend of mine whose son is classed as a Vulnerable Adult, and she confirmed that she will not be informed about anything connected with her son's Bank Account. I asked another friend – who has experience of dealing with Vulnerable people both as a Police Officer and in one of his other roles – who confirmed what I stated above about the Power of Attorney and the Joint Bank Account are true.
There needs to be a system in place where the Account Holder (or a relative) can nominate someone for the Bank to contact in the event of suspicious or unusual transactions. A bit like arranging for the Bank to contact you if you make a large purchase if you have previously been a victim of Identity Theft. Instead of the onus always being on the friends and relatives of the Account holder to know that they need Power of Attorney or a Joint Bank Account – which many do not realise until it is too late.
How can a Vulnerable Adult (who wishes to keep as much of their independence as possible) be assisted to achieve this???
Also, what happens when the Account Holder becomes so incapacitated they end up in hospital, or deceased, before anybody realises what has been going on???
The entire Banking System needs a total overhaul to put the Account Holders (and their nominated representatives) in charge – or at least stop the nominated representatives from having to jump through legal loopholes in order to find out what is going on.
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