Safeguarding saves half a million for Hampshire residents
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
Triumph for Hampshire County Council's Trading Standards team as their safeguarding scheme proves a success.
"It's an experience that I could have done without, but I got my sanity back, thanks to Trading Standards."
Those are the words of an 85 year old resident who was helped by the Safeguarding Unit.
Hampshire's award-winning Financial Abuse Safeguarding Unit has recovered £500,000 for vulnerable residents, since it was established in 2009 by the County Council's Trading Standards.
The service was set up to help vulnerable residents, who have been financially abused by scams or unscrupulous traders, to negotiate settlements without the need for court action.
Many victims of such scams would often find it impossible to give evidence in court due to their specific impairments such as dementia, mental health problems, learning difficulties or physical limitations.
Many vulnerable consumers can be socially isolated and worry about the situation they find themselves in. By taking on exceptional cases, Trading Standards have been able to help minimise this stress.
Incidents have included fraudsters contacting elderly or vulnerable residents, and manipulating them into buying mis-sold goods, timeshares or insurance, signing up to unwanted phone contracts and many other scams.
Working alongside Adult Services and the Police, experienced officers, trained with negotiation and mediation skills, visit victims and seek to obtain a fair deal or refund if a resident is unable to take action themselves. They also work with them to introduce robust preventative measures, to avoid further victimisation.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Ken Thornber, said:
"This is an outstanding scheme and a very powerful tool to tackle incidents of financial abuse among Hampshire's vulnerable residents. Reaching the £0.5million mark is a great achievement and is testament to the dedication of its committed staff."
In the case of the 85 year old resident, from Rownhams, who has limited mobility, she was over-charged for plumbing work and the firm left a hole in the ceiling which required urgent repair. Thanks to the Safeguarding Unit, a refund was recovered, the work was completed by another company and additional support was provided for the victim.
"It's been a nightmare. You never think it will happen to you but then it does. I'm lucky to get away with what I did, it could have been much worse.
"I'm very cautious of people now, but Trading Standards gave me a list of tradesmen that are genuine and well screened so that I don't make the same mistake again. Luckily I had support from my son and my neighbours, I wouldn't want this to happen to anyone who was on their own."
Trading Standards offer a Buy With Confidence directory which details hundreds businesses from every trade which have been vetted by officers to ensure that they are not only trustworthy but also offer good customer service.
You can get advice on consumer issues, or report a complaint to Trading Standards, by contacting the Citizen's Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.
Or visit Hampshire Trading Standards for more information.
Hampshire's Financial Abuse Safeguarding Scheme was recognised by the National Trading Standards Institute in 2011.
Following this accolade, six other local authorities around the UK have contacted Hampshire County Council's Trading Standards Team to learn how the unit was set up, with a view to establishing similar services in their areas.