Tougher SA laws on paid carers and powers of attorney needed to protect the elderly from abuse

10 February 2021
Leading law firm Maurice Blackburn is urging the South Australian Government to adopt a law reform recommendation to ban paid carers from being used as powers of attorney, describing it as an important safeguard against elder abuse.

The recommendation was included in a recently released South Australian Law Reform Institute report on powers of attorney that is under consideration by Attorney-General Vickie Chapman.

If adopted, South Australia would become only the third Australian state with laws to prohibit a paid carer from being appointed as an enduring power of attorney, following the lead of Victoria and Queensland.

An enduring power of attorney is a legal document in which a person appoints someone to make important financial and personal decisions on their behalf. The power continues if and when the person is unable to make decisions on their own.

Andrew Simpson, national head of wills and estates at Maurice Blackburn, said there was considerable trust invested in an enduring power of attorney, and any breach of that trust could have significant consequences.

“A power of attorney is one of the most important documents you’ll ever make. If you lose capacity, that person will potentially have complete control over all decisions relating to you and your affairs,” Mr Simpson said.

“Giving a paid carer power over the affairs of the vulnerable person they are paid to look after is in our view a dangerous blurring of professional and personal lines that increases the risk of financial abuse.

“We acknowledge the vast majority of paid carers do incredible work in looking after older and more vulnerable people in our community. But unfortunately there will always be some who will exploit that position of trust for personal gain.

“We know there have been cases where a paid carer holding a person’s power of attorney has misused that power for their own benefit, such as taking money, transferring assets and incurring debt.

“We urge South Australia to tighten restrictions around the use of paid carers as powers of attorney to help protect our elderly from abuse.”

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