Helping a Vulnerable Adult Get Support
An adult who cannot manage their own financial, legal and personal care matters are vulnerable in our society. They may find routine banking and legal matters difficult or even impossible, lose track of bank accounts, forget to pay bills or be persuaded to turn property over to strangers. It can sometimes be difficult to know if or when to step in. Sometimes adults cannot seek the help they need because of a physical restraint, a physical disability, an illness, disease, injury or other condition that affects their ability to make decisions.
Each year many people call the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) to find out what they can do to help a friend or relative who is not able to manage finances, legal matters and health and personal decisions on their own or to report possible abuse, neglect or self neglect of an adult who may not be able to manage independently. British Columbia’s laws give the PGT and designated agencies (health authorities and Community Living BC) the ability to respond to concerns about a vulnerable adult.
Making a Report to PGT When there are Financial and Legal Concerns
If you have concerns about the financial and legal affairs of a vulnerable adult, use the referral form (link provided below) to make a
report to the PGT. Please fill in the referral form as much as possible. You can fill it in online and submit via email OR you can print it out, fill it and mail or fax the completed form to the PGT.
AIS Referral Form (fillable)
The PGT is committed to maintaining the confidentiality and security of all information provided, including the identity of persons making a report. The collection, use and disclosure of personal information must comply with the
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and other BC legislation.
How the PGT Responds to Concerns about Vulnerable Adults
When the PGT receives reports or allegations of financial abuse, neglect or self neglect, our staff will gather information and determine if further investigation is required.
The PGT can provide initial support by:
- providing information on options available to help the adult;
consulting on problems related to complex risk situations involving abuse, neglect or self neglect; or
initiating an investigation, if required.
The PGT will start an investigation when there is a concern the adult may be incapable of managing their affairs;
when there is specific, urgent or immediate need; and
when no other suitable person is willing or able to act on the adult’s behalf.
The PGT investigates to see if an existing substitute decision maker is not fulfilling their legal duties, to see if options can be put in place to protect and manage the adult’s financial affairs or to see if the adult faces serious enough risks that require a substitute decision maker to be appointed.
The purpose of the PGT investigation is to determine if and what kind of assistance the adult may need. The focus is always to look for the least intrusive but most effective option.
If necessary, the PGT has the authority to collect relevant information about the adult’s ability to manage their personal, legal and financial affairs. The scope of the investigation depends on factors including the risk, urgency and circumstances of each situation.
For more information on what the PGT does in an investigation and the possible outcomes of a PGT investigation, please see the PGT
Assessment and Investigation Services brochure.
Making Reports of Abuse, Neglect or Self Neglect to Designated Agencies
If there is an immediate risk to an adult’s physical safety, call 911 - the police emergency number.
If you have concerns about the health and safety of an adult,
or suspect that an adult has been abused or is being neglected, or the adult is self neglecting and is unable to seek support and assistance on their own, you may make a confidential report to a “designated agency”.
The “designated agencies” in BC are the five regional health authorities, Providence Health Care and Community Living BC (for adults with developmental disabilities). If a designated agency receives a report, it will investigate and offer support and assistance to the adult, or if necessary, take steps to protect the adult. In certain circumstances this may involve making a report to police.
Need more information on who to call?
The two-page “Decision Tree: Assisting an Adult Who is Abused, Neglected or Self Neglecting” outlines which agencies to contact to make the most effective referrals for adults who may be vulnerable and/or incapable. The Decision Tree is accompanied by a series of five videos that together set the legislative context including:
the guiding principles of providing the least intrusive, most effective forms of support;
illustrate how to use the decision tree; and
provide scenarios showing when it may be appropriate to contact the police, a designated agency or the PGT.
To access the Decision Tree and video package, click