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There are approximately 16.4 million carers in the UK. Part of this caring role almost always includes helping with practical matters such as paying for shopping, withdrawing money and paying bills.
Almost half of the 16.4 million carers know the PIN of those they care for. Under current rules giving a carer a PIN breaks the terms and conditions of the account and means the account holder is potentially liable for any fraud carried out by the carer. For example, if you ask you carer to withdraw £100.00 using your PIN for you and they also (without your consent) withdraw £100.00 for themselves as the account holder you would be liable for both transactions.
For those who only have a bank account and no other assets a Power of Attorney may seem too expensive and onerous. The banks and building societies are considering developing special “carers cards” to give carers a limited access to someone’s account in an attempt to reduce fraud and create a simple system. However, it is yet to be demonstrated how this will work in practice and what safeguarding measures will be in place for vulnerable adults.
Powers of Attorney, although sometime perceived as difficult and expensive don’t have to be. It is a big decision and built into the cost of making a Power of Attorney is advice from a legal adviser on the risks and consequences of making a Power of Attorney. The procedure of entering into a Power of Attorney itself is a safeguard giving the Donor a safe, independent space, to consider and discuss their choices and other options. Someone independent with the relevant skills to assess undue influence and capacity is helping the individual make a sensible decision cutting down on fraud and people preying on vulnerable adults.
The very existence of a Power of Attorney registered at the Office of the Public Guardian alerts an institutional Government body that someone else is managing the affairs of a vulnerable adult, giving them wide investigative powers to intervene if an Attorney acts inappropriately. Such referrals come from banks, building societies, family, friends, police and care providers.
Vicki Pearce, Panel Deputy and Head of Court of Protection and Care Funding Team at Wilson Browne Solicitors, comments “I am an advocate of any measures that help carers help their loved ones and I can certainly see the benefit of having a carers card above divulging your PIN however, the need and the protection afforded by a Power of Attorney and the process itself should not be underestimated. I see many cases where a vulnerable adult has been financially abused and it is very rarely that this is under a professionally drawn up Power of Attorney and more likely to be from a more informal arrangement or where costs have tried to be saved by doing it themselves. Despite what appear to be sometimes simpler and cheaper options I would warn people not to underestimate the wider value of good legal advice in such an important area”.