Disabled Australians at financial risk



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A new study has confirmed that people living with disabilities are vulnerable to financial exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous service providers, and that access to financial education may be able to help disabled Australians and carers make more confident financial decisions.

The ANZ-commissioned 2017 MoneyMinded Impact Report from RMIT University found that people with disability may miss out on opportunities to develop their financial capability and wellbeing because of lower levels of digital inclusion, lower participation rates in education and the workforce, and lower levels of socialisation.

According to the report, Australians living with disabilities may face additional financial challenges under the National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS).

A companion study from RMIT University and Autism CRC, also supported by ANZ, focused on the autistic individuals who account for 29% of current NDIS clients.

According to this study, while autistic individuals are vulnerable to exploitation and scams due to difficulty reading emotions and holding high levels of sincerity and trust, they do have attributes that can helpful for managing money well, such as attention to detail.

Autism CRC CEO, Andrew Davis, said that limited financial socialisation plays a part in the lack of opportunity autistic people have to learn about and use money, with family, school and work key channels to acquiring financial knowledge and skills:

“We need to have a stronger understanding of the financial barriers faced by autistic individuals, including how neurodiversity affects their financial wellbeing.”

“What we do know is that if autistic individuals are not given the opportunity to develop their financial skills and confidence, they are less likely to be able to live as independent consumers and develop the capability to identify financial opportunities and risks.”

RMIT principal research fellow, Professor Roslyn Russell, said the financial capabilities and education needs of disabled Australians were varied and diverse, depending on the nature and extent of their disability:

“Those with cognitive and intellectual difficulties may have more complex challenges in using and understanding money. But everyone, regardless of their ability, should be given support to learn and participate in financial decisions that are appropriate to their goals.”

While disabled Australians and carers can find support making financial decisions, gaining confidence and setting financial goals for the future from community programs such as ANZ’s MoneyMinded, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is also making people with disabilities a priority audience for its National Financial Literacy Strategy for 2018, with a strong focus on supporting financial capability.

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