Before reading David’s referral, his current situation was highlighted to me. David had spent all his money on toy tractors and had found himself in arrears facing eviction. It was certainly a strange circumstance, and the referral documents didn’t provide further insight. What was also difficult was that David had no means of communication other than knocking on his door or posting a letter, so off I went to undertake an initial assessment at his house…
David lived in a shared house, so when I knocked on the door the downstairs tenant let me in. Worryingly, they didn’t ask me for any identification which raised concerns for me about access to my potential client. Once inside, I met David who was strikingly thin, so I asked him what food he had at home. David opened his kitchen cupboard and all he had was one bag of pasta! David explained to me that he’d spent all his money on his collection of 250 toy tractors and had none left for food.
I needed to fix the issue at hand and build up trust with David to get to the bottom of the situation. After speaking with my manager, we agreed the first thing to do was to get David some food vouchers and set him up properly for the next few days. I left him with a request to gather his bank statements from the last three months, so we could look at his finances together when I returned in a few days’ time.
The bank statements were very revealing, it seemed that when David’s pensions payments entered his account they were withdrawn immediately, at a local supermarket in two large amounts. Having now built a little bit of trust with David, I asked him what was happening with the withdrawals and why he had no food. David was unwilling to answer and just said he didn’t know. Based on his response, I’d started to believe that there was some financial abuse taking place, so I asked if someone was meant to be buying food for him. He advised they were, but he didn’t know why he was left without any food. Another look at his bank statements showed there were also large amounts coming directly from his bank. So, with David’s permission, we went to his bank branch to ask if they knew what was going on.
The Bank Manager confirmed he was already aware there were issues, and that David was on their ‘Vulnerable Adults’ list. He advised that when David came to the bank on his own, he would withdraw £10-£20, but when he came with a ‘friend’, he would withdraw very large amounts of money. As David had asked to take the money, there was nothing the bank could do to stop the cash withdrawal. David was becoming a little uneasy at this point, so we agreed to return another time and I took him home. When we got back to familiar surroundings, I had an open conversation with him about financial abuse, and David confided in me that two people had been taking his money and leaving him with nothing.
With David’s consent, we began to implement some safeguarding steps to try and stop this from happening. Working with the bank we:
- Got David to agree to cancel all his bank cards and tear up any cards he had, to prevent the local supermarket withdraws
- Set up a process so that if David visits the bank without me, I would receive a call to check that he was okay and if he needed me to attend
- Agreed that I would take David once a week to the bank to withdraw money so he could buy food himself
Once these steps were implemented, I spoke to his landlord and the council to inform them of his situation. Not having yet met the perpetrators of this abuse, I would keep a close eye on David until we could gain more information to use in a safeguarding case and potential police report. In the meantime, the council agreed to help David with bidding as he was now on the housing register and apply for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to try and clear the arrears.
After just two weeks of setting up the safeguarding steps, I received a call from the bank advising me that David was asking for money at the counter. They passed me over to David who asked me to meet him at the bank. On arrival, he stood outside with a woman called Louise. Louise immediately informed me she was a friend of David’s and was helping him with things for his house. However, the bank had already confirmed with me that this was the same lady who had made large cash withdrawals in the past. I asked David to confirm if Louise was a friend, but he just looked away. I told Louise that David no longer required her assistance and requested she has no further contact with him. She left angry and upset telling me “I did not know who I was messing with”.
Once at home, David opened up about the financial abuse and how he felt threatened by this woman. He consented to me raising a safeguarding concern and informing the police. From these reports, Social Workers were assigned, and a Police Officer came to take the details. Unfortunately, David has memory lapses, so it was always going to be difficult to prosecute this potential abuse. However, the police were now aware and having met this woman I could identify her, and this was backed up by the bank’s CCTV.
The final stage was to implement two further safeguarding measures, the first was for the landlord to send out a letter to all tenants asking them not to let anyone in the house they don’t know. The second was that anyone who calls for David should be given my number so I can verify who they are.
After three months of support, there have been no new incidents of financial abuse, and David is now feeling a lot safer in his home.
Paul – Support Worker