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Why the financial services industry should support the change proposed for financial abuse

Date: April 18, 2019

The Frenkel Topping Deputy Day has become a key date in the calendar for professional deputies and the clients they represent.

This year’s theme of financial abuse is high in the current news agenda and also strikes a particular chord with me. From my work over the last 30 years advising people who, through catastrophic personal injury no longer have the capacity to handle their own financial affairs, I’ve seen the difficulties that arise in managing settlement funds. In the most extreme cases, these settlements can often stretch to several millions of pounds and, while we strive to support our clients and their lawyers in obtaining the best possible financial outcome, this can create new problems of its own.

The Government has proposed landmark change to extend the legal definition of domestic violence to include financial abuse. In my opinion, this change can’t come soon enough. Handing a substantial lump sum to people who have been left with borderline capacity to manage their own financial affairs can leave the door wide open to abuse.

This is something that I feel absolutely passionate about, both personally and professionally. I’ve seen so many examples of money being mis-handled – whether with the best intentions or otherwise.

Some families guard the pot with the aim of saving it for their injured relative’s future – but what’s often needed is a sum that’s accessible immediately for essential expenses, such as round-the-clock care and home alterations for disability access. Others are, sadly, less honest and see it as their bounty – a way to buy a new house or change their entire lifestyle, for example.

This is why it’s so important to talk to the experts. A specialist IFA will work with lawyers and their clients to provide advice on whether a lump sum settlement or a schedule of payments is most suited to the claimant’s needs – or whether a blend of both approaches is the best outcome. This blended approach sets out to meet both immediate care and accommodation needs, while also protecting the individual’s financial future. I believe that periodical payments are the best solution, as these protect the bulk of any lump sum settlement and provide the individual with a monthly or quarterly income in the long term.

What’s key is for the financial advisers to look for signs of financial abuse and fraud. This is part of what our Deputy Day sets out to provide support with, as well as help educate professional deputies on how their clients’ funds can be best invested for strong long-term returns.

At Frenkel Topping we welcome the Government’s proposals. The implications will be wide reaching.  Legal guidance for prosecutors will be changed to ensure cases of financial abuse can be successfully prosecuted where appropriate. For example, if a claimant who has suffered life changing injury should get divorced, there is currently no right to ring-fence any financial award to protect it from inclusion in the marital settlement – despite the fact that the damages clearly belong to the injured individual.

It’s up to us as an industry to help change the outcomes for anyone who may be subject to financial abuse, recognising the critical signs and ensuring appropriate care is in place.

The Frenkel Topping Deputy Day is taking place on Thursday 9 May 2019 at the Kimpton Fitzroy, Russell Square, WC1B. Speakers include HHJ Carolyn Hilder of the judiciary Court of Protection, who will discuss protecting vulnerable adults with borderline capacity and identifying financial abuse; Paul Tregoning of the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), with an update on the pilot scheme for mediation and financial abuse between family members; and Ruth Hughes from 5 Stone Buildings delivering a legal update on notable recent financial abuse cases.

Book here to secure your place.