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Stealing or financial coercion by a staff member

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What is stealing or financial coercion?

Stealing or financial coercion is:

  • stealing from a consumer by a worker
  • conduct by a worker that is financially coercive towards a consumer
  • conduct by a worker that is deceptive about a consumer’s financial affairs
  • conduct by a worker that unreasonably controls a consumer’s finances. 

What is stealing or financial coercion?

Stealing or financial coercion is:

  • stealing from a consumer by a worker
  • conduct by a worker that is financially coercive towards a consumer
  • conduct by a worker that is deceptive about a consumer’s financial affairs
  • conduct by a worker that unreasonably controls a consumer’s finances. 

You must notify the Commission of any incident of stealing or financial coercion that:

  • happens in connection with care that your service provides
  • somebody has alleged happened in connection with care
  • you suspect may have happened in connection with care
Stealing or financial coercion includes:
  • a worker stealing money or valuables from a consumer

  • a worker advising, forcing or tricking a consumer into changing their will to benefit the worker

  • a worker asking or forcing a consumer to buy something for them (or somebody else)

  • a worker using power of attorney to steal money from a consumer

  • a consumer alleging or suspecting that a worker is involved in missing money or items

  • a worker obtaining a financial advantage by deceiving a consumer

  • a worker pressuring, threatening or bullying a consumer to get a financial benefit.
Stealing or financial coercion includes:
  • a worker stealing money or valuables from a consumer

  • a worker advising, forcing or tricking a consumer into changing their will to benefit the worker

  • A worker using or borrowing the personal property of a consumer (for their own purposes) without asking permission or consent

  • a worker asking or forcing a consumer to buy something for them (or somebody else)

  • a worker using power of attorney to steal money from a consumer

  • a consumer alleging or suspecting that a worker is involved in missing money or items

  • a worker obtaining a financial advantage by deceiving a consumer

  • a worker pressuring, threatening or bullying a consumer to obtain a financial benefit.
Stealing or financial coercion does not include:
  • a consumer, with cognitive capacity, willingly offering to buy a worker a coffee when out for an appointment
  • a consumer or their family buying a worker a present to thank them
  • items going missing but quickly being found to have been misplaced
  • a consumer complaining to a worker about feeling financially pressured by their family.

Stealing or financial coercion by a worker is a reportable incident under the SIRS. You are not required to report stealing or financial coercion to the Commission, where a worker is not involved, suspected or alleged to have been involved.

There is an obligation to report all actual, suspected or alleged worker misconduct with regards to stealing or financial coercion. It is not dependent upon:

  • the nature of the theft or financial coercion
  • if the theft involves items of significant financial value or large sums of money and/or,
  • If the items are of emotional or sentimental value or items of low value.

 

What is 'in connection with care'?

You must manage and report all incidents (including alleged or suspected incidents) of stealing and financial coercion in connection with care. 

Incidents that occur in connection with care and that have (or could reasonably have been expected to have) caused harm to a consumer or another person, include incidents:

  • that occur while care and services are provided, 
  • that arise out of a failure to provide care and services,  
  • where the harm (or potential harm) is connected to care and services provided, even if the harm did not occur during delivery of service. 

Workers may witness incidents that are not in connection with care. This may include acts committed by members of a consumer’s household or community who are not affiliated with you. While incident management and prevention requirements do not apply to these incidents, it is part of your service’s broader responsibility to protect the safety, health and wellbeing of consumers. You must take protective steps when you become aware of neglect or abuse (including suspected or alleged incidents) of consumers.

You should also support consumers dealing with elder abuse or other issues by connecting them to further assistance, such as:

  • OPAN (website) – the Older Persons Advocacy Network provides free, confidential, and independent support to older people seeking or receiving care and their families or representatives.
  • 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374) – a free and confidential National Elder Abuse phone line

Review About the SIRS for further detail on incidents in connection with care.

Work tool

The SIRS Decision Support Tool can help you explore what kinds of incidents are stealing or financial coercion.

If an incident happens at your service, it can help you to decide whether it must be reported to the Commission, and if it is Priority 1 or Priority 2.

Warning signs

Incidents of stealing or financial coercion are not always witnessed, and not all consumers affected will report them.  

There are other warning signs that might suggest that a consumer has experienced stealing or financial coercion by a worker. These include when:

  • there is a sudden decrease in a consumer’s bank balance
  • there are no financial records, or incomplete financial records of payments and purchases
  • the person controlling a consumer’s finances does not have the proper authority
  • there are sudden changes in a consumer’s banking practices
  • there are sudden changes in wills or other financial documents (particularly where these changes benefit a worker)
  • money or valuables go missing
  • a consumer no longer has enough money to meet their budget or attend activities
  • a consumer borrows, begs or steals money.

You should always investigate or escalate to the appropriate person when there are changes in a consumer’s behaviour or where there are warning signs.

Remember, if you suspect that a reportable incident has happened, you must notify the Commission. You should not wait for definitive proof.

 

Responding to stealing or financial coercion

When an incident happens at your service, your first priority is always to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your consumer.

In an incident of stealing or financial coercion, this could involve:

  • reassuring the consumer

  • searching for missing money or valuables

  • contacting the police where you suspect the incident may involve a crime

  • helping the consumer to access support services and legal or financial advice in cases of financial coercion.  

While managing the incident you must continue to give the consumer support and practice open disclosure by letting the consumer, or their representative, know the steps you are taking to respond.

You may not always be able to identify the subject of the allegation at the time of reporting an incident of stealing. However, when a consumer accuses a worker of stealing, it is expected that the service will try to locate the item and/or to identify who stole the item.

 

Reporting stealing or financial coercion

Stealing or financial coercion in connection with care, like any reportable incident, must be recorded into your IMS and the Commission must be notified. When a consumer loses something of great value to them (monetary, sentimental, or otherwise), it can cause significant psychological distress.

If there were reasonable grounds to contact the police, or if there was harm caused to a consumer that needed medical or psychological treatment to resolve, it is a Priority 1 reportable incident, and you must notify the Commission within 24 hours of becoming aware.

If there were no reasonable grounds to contact the police and no harm to a consumer that needed medical or psychological treatment to resolve, it is a Priority 2 reportable incident, and you must notify the Commission within 30 days of becoming aware.

A quality incident notification requires more than simply transcribing the details from progress notes about the incident or copying text from your IMS. It is important that the person making the notification is familiar with:

  • what happened

  • when the incident happened

  • where the incident happened

  • who was involved including the affected consumer, workers involved in the incident, and other affected people

  • what actions were taken after the incident

  • what caused the incident (if known)

  • what changes will be made as a result of the incident (if known).

If you become aware of further information after submitting an initial notification, you should update the Commission.

When you provide clear and comprehensive information early on, it is less likely that the Commission will need to:

  • ask for further details

  • require you to conduct an investigation, or

  • directly investigate the matter itself.

 

Reporting stealing or financial coercion

Stealing or financial coercion, like any reportable incident, must be recorded into your IMS and the Commission must be notified. When a consumer loses something of great value to them (monetary, sentimental, or otherwise), it can cause significant psychological distress.

If there were reasonable grounds to contact the police, or if there was harm caused to a consumer that needed medical or psychological treatment to resolve, it is a Priority 1 reportable incident, and you must notify the Commission within 24 hours of becoming aware.

If there were no reasonable grounds to contact the police and no harm to a consumer that needed medical or psychological treatment to resolve, it is a Priority 2 reportable incident, and you must notify the Commission within 30 days of becoming aware.

A quality incident notification requires more than simply transcribing the details from progress notes about the incident or copying text from your IMS. It is important that the person making the notification is familiar with:

  • what happened

  • when the incident happened

  • where the incident happened

  • who was involved including the affected consumer, workers involved in the incident, and other affected people

  • what actions were taken after the incident

  • what caused the incident (if known)

  • what changes will be made as a result of the incident (if known).

If you become aware of further information after submitting an initial notification, you should update the Commission.

When you provide clear and comprehensive information early on, it is less likely that the Commission will need to:

  • ask for further details

  • require you to conduct an investigation, or

  • directly investigate the matter itself.

 

Tip

It is easier to make a good quality notification to the Commission if you have the information you need at hand.

Educating workers to report incidents correctly within your IMS will make it easier to notify the Commission when a reportable incident happens.

Work tools

The fact sheet, Reportable incidents: stealing or financial coercion by a staff member, provides more detailed guidance for reporting of incidents in a residential service relating to this incident type.

The example Stealing or financial coercion by a staff member notification shows the level of detail the Commission expects when receiving a notification about this incident type.

You can use the Practical tips guide to ensure your notification contains all the required information.

Work tools

The fact sheet, Reportable incidents: stealing or financial coercion by a staff member, provides more detailed guidance for reporting of incidents in a home or community setting relating to this type of reportable incident.

Contact us

If you have a question about the SIRS, you can call us on 1800 081 549. This phone line is open 9 am to 5 pm (AEST) Monday to Sunday.

You can also email us at sirs@agedcarequality.gov.au.

Facilitated workshops

The Commission provides facilitated workshops to sector participants. All current workshops are available on the Commission’s Workshop page.

Online learning

The Commission’s Aged Care Learning Information Solution, Alis provides free online education for employees of Commonwealth-funded aged care providers, including a module covering stealing or financial coercion.

You can access Alis at learning.agedcarequality.gov.au

Disclaimer

The information contained on this page is intended to provide you with general guidance; however, it is your responsibility to be aware of your legislative requirements.