October 19, 2020:

Call for vulnerable people to ‘take back control’ of their money

Two thirds of people who needed help from others to manage their money during the COVID-19 lockdown have not taken back control of their own finances.

This is according to new research commissioned by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) together with Safeguarding Ireland and published today.

BPFI and Safeguarding Ireland recommend that, while following public health guidelines, people should take back and keep control of their own money as much as possible – in order to combat financial abuse.

Carried out on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, using RED C’s online omnibus survey, the research found that:

  • 11% of adults needed the help of others to manage or access their money during the COVID lockdown period. However, just one-third (33%) of these have taken back this control since the lockdown restrictions were lifted
  • One in twenty people (5%) said they experienced financial abuse during lockdown and 19% had ever experienced financial abuse
  • 13% were concerned about someone taking advantage of them financially
  • 12% experienced less control of their finances since the pandemic began.

BPFI Head of Sustainable Banking, Louise O’Mahony said: “We and Safeguarding Ireland recommend that people keep control of their own money, particularly if vulnerable. As much as possible, and doing so safely, take back any control of your money you given up during COVID-19.

“It is reassuring to note that the Covid-19 lockdown led to just 11% of adults requiring help from others to manage their finances. This indicates that our message about managing one’s own money wherever possible is getting through to people.

“Less reassuring is the finding that many of those who took such action during the lockdown have not yet taken back control of their finances. People should of course get the help of trusted people if necessary as a short-term measure.

“However, keeping ongoing control of your own finances remains the best ongoing way to safeguard against financial abuse.”

Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke stressed the importance of all adults keeping control of their bank accounts and being vigilant about relying on others.

“Unfortunately, it is estimated internationally that in excess of 10% of people are dishonest in how they manage a vulnerable person’s money. This research indicates that 5% of adults experienced financial abuse during the lockdown and that 19% have done so at one point or another in the past.

“COVID-19 raises additional challenges for the independence of vulnerable people, but the advice remains as much as possible to keep charge of your own money. Any arrangements put in place during lockdown should be reversed, as it is safe to do so.”

During the pandemic the retail banks and An Post have developed services and policies to support vulnerable customers. People can talk with their bank who have trained frontline staff in identifying and responding to financial abuse. Steps which people should take include:

  • Understand and organise your day-to-day banking
  • Check your bank account(s) regularly
  • Ensure access to your money for you and only a highly trusted person by putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney.

Louise O’Mahony added that customers should make contact with their bank or An Post if they have any concerns. “Dedicated one-to-one appointments can be made when staff and customers can speak in confidence. With an account holder’s permission the bank can monitor for suspicious behaviour.

“Your bank and An Post also provide many tips such as to avoid keeping large amounts of cash, using standing orders for secure payments, keeping PIN and CVV numbers private – and applying careful diligence to the use of joint or third party accounts.

“A lot of useful information is available in a booklet called Safeguarding your Money Now and in the Future which can be viewed at www.safeguardyourmoney.ie,” she said.

The research was commissioned by BPFI together with Safeguarding Ireland; and funded by BPFI member institutions including AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, permanent tsb, Ulster Bank and An Post. The research informs a public awareness campaign on avoiding financial abuse.

Further Information

Jillian Heffernan, Head of Communications, BPFI: (087) 901 6880

Ronan Cavanagh, Safeguarding Ireland / Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.

Financial abuse is unauthorised and improper use of funds, property, pensions, statutory entitlements or benefits. Financial abuse is when a person is deprived of control of their finances, possessions, or exploited financially by another person.

Banking & Payments Federation Ireland

Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) represents the banking, payments and fintech sector in Ireland. Together with its affiliates, the Federation of International Banks in Ireland and the Fintech & Payments Association of Ireland, BPFI has over 100 member institutions and associates, including licensed domestic and foreign banks and institutions operating in the financial marketplace here.

Safeguarding Ireland 

Safeguarding Ireland promotes safeguarding of vulnerable adults to protect them from all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and to deliver on a national plan for promoting their welfare.