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Changing policy landscape around elder abuse in England and Wales

BMJ 2024; 384 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.q463 (Published 28 February 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;384:q463

Rapid Response:

Tackling the abuse of Lasting Power of Attorney Agreements

Dear Editor

Since we launched the campaign to end Predatory Marriage in 2018, it has become clear that there are several additional levers for potential abusers to pull in order to financially defraud and target the elderly and vulnerable. All are under-reported or simply go unnoticed because this country lacks the legal safeguards to catch them before it’s too late.
 
Whilst government Ministers have had a tendency to brush such issues under the carpet as ‘isolated incidents', this couldn’t be further from the truth. Over six million people in the UK have Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) agreements. That’s six million people who are at risk of being targeted by unscrupulous people who want to seize access to their finances and assets. 
 
Thanks to the unwavering commitment of campaigners, we have had some success in bringing about new safeguards to prevent Predatory Marriage. However, there is much more work to be done and so it seems only right that we now carefully examine Lasting Power of Attorney. 
 
Following the issue being highlighted in the media, I have been inundated with calls and emails from people from across the country who want to share their stories of this vile abuse, which ranges from people who have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds to people who have lost family heirlooms and homes. Whatever the loss, big or small, it should never be allowed to happen. 
 
It’s important to note that Members of Parliament cannot act retrospectively in legal cases. Therefore, my priority – like the vast majority of campaigners – is to ensure this abuse cannot take place in the future. To this end, I have arranged a meeting in Parliament in which we will be discussing the experiences of those have been subject to this abuse in great detail.
 
The meeting will be crucial to my Ten Minute Rule Bill, which I plan to bring to the House of Commons as soon as possible. The Bill will serve as a ‘red flag’ to highlight this abuse to the government and it will urge the government to:
 
Introduce mandatory safeguarding procedures, similar to Predatory Marriage training, for all government employees responsible for Lasting Power of Attorney arrangements. 
Make clear to banks that they must take responsibility for activating LPAs without the consent or knowledge of the person or their relevant medical personnel.
Close any legal loopholes that allow abuse to take place, including the digitisation of LPAs which could open door to more abuse. In particular, I am calling for the removal of the option to have instant access to finances without a medical assessment to properly deem sufficient capacity. 
 
As with Predatory Marriage, this is not a party political issue. I will be appealing to Members from across the House to support our campaign and would strongly urge readers to write to their own Members of Parliament to the same end.

Competing interests: No competing interests

11 March 2024
Fabian Hamilton
Member of Parliament for Leeds North East
UK Labour Party
Houses of Parliament, London, SW1A 0AA