Thursday, 25 October 2012
Britain is no country for old men who want to keep control of their finances and their dignity
* has for six months, battled with Yorkshire Building Society to get £10,000 from his savings account, which he desperately needs to pay his £850-a-week bills for 24-hour care.
* is thwarted by the Society which refuses to hand over his cash because it can’t recognise his signature which has changed as he has become progressively more frail and demands that he should visit his local branch 12 miles away in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, to prove his identity.
* has been offered an alternative in that the Society want his son, Colin, to sign on his behalf, but although he has set up a 'power of attorney' which would hand control of his finances to Colin, wants to keep his independence for as long as he can.
* in order to verify his identity and maintain his independence, has asked the Building Society to either accept the forms of identification he has sent to them, or send a branch member over to his house in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire only to find it refuse.
* had his case assessed by the independent 'Financial Ombudsman Service', only to find that it concluded that the Society 'were not at fault' and is, with son Colin, appealing against the decision.
* has had Colin say on his behalf : "I realise we may seem overly critical, but for me this is a point of principle. Why should my father be forced to resort to a power of attorney before he deteriorates to the point of no choice ? What if he, like millions of other people, didn’t have a relative or friend who could look after his affairs — would he be told he would not be allowed the money because his signature is different? It is completely blockheaded."
A spokesman for the Building Society said : "As Mr Howard’s signature differed significantly from his passport signature and his original signature, we asked him to visit his local branch or to register the power of attorney on his account that his son already had. We had difficulty contacting Mr Howard over the phone. He has since given us permission to do this and we are seeking a solution."
Britain is a country where banks are supposed to provide assistance to those who are mentally capable, but have disabilities. In practice, though, many, in particular old men and women, are forced to hand over their accounts and with it their independence.
They are inundated with 5,000 complaints a year from desperate relatives struggling for help after their power of attorney application is turned down by their bank and : "We are a long way from having a banking system that understands power of attorney and with staff who deal with it sensitively. Often, the situation is made worse because of branch staff’s insensitivity."
A frequent complaint is that bank staff don’t understand the rules, and make extra demands. Usually they ask for extra documents on top of a certificate of authority granting the power of attorney, such as a letter from a doctor or solicitors. .
An estimated 200,000 people in Britain turn to power of attorney every year on behalf of loved ones. There are six million people caring for spouses, parents or other relatives.