In this guest blog Samantha Fisher, CEO of Trafford Domestic Abuse Services shares some of the harsh realities of financial abuse and how charities are working with the banking sector to identify and address it, as well as her wishlist for the year ahead.
Christmas is a time when people are tightening their belts and looking at the many ways to survive the financial strain of the holiday season. It is also a time of year can put extra pressure on families who have suffered financial abuse.
Financial abuse is when a partner, family member or loved one controls someone’s access to money and their ability to support themselves financially.
Financial abuse is often an overlooked form of abuse. Despite this it is often one of the first forms of abuse a survivor may experience and, practically, one of the biggest barriers to a survivor leaving an abusive relationship.
Victims of financial abuse face many barriers to everyday things that we often take for granted, like opening a bank account, the ability to work, claiming benefits, obtaining credit and even providing essentials for their family.
For many of the survivors of financial abuse that we support, Christmas can be a terrifying time of year. The pressure of insecure finances, whether it debt that has been accumulated in their name or benefits to which they are entitled but denied access, adds additional strain on many victims and we often see an increase in abuse at his time of year.
What is on your Christmas wish list this year?
This Christmas we all need to be talking about domestic and financial abuse and the impact it has. We need to make sure that responsibility for financial abuse stops with the perpetrator and that the system doesn’t continue to be a barrier for survivors and instead can help provide support for those who need it.
We want to see government recognising the many ways that a perpetrator can be financially abusive. Survivors want the reassurance that they will be able to provide for their children after leaving an abusive relationship and they want to know that they won’t be left with debt which prevents them breaking free and moving on with their lives in the first place.
We also need interpreters to be available for those survivors where English is their second language to make sure nobody is excluded from the support they need to escape abuse and those survivors who have been able to continue working, should too be provided extra support so they do not have to give up their employment in order to move to a safe place.
What we’ve been doing
It’s a long list but luckily we’ve already been making some progress. TDAS have worked closely with Lloyds Bank Foundation to contribute to Lloyds Banking Group’s response to domestic abuse and how they help their staff and customers. Key areas explored included training for banking staff, the difficulties with joint accounts, signposting and flags for vulnerable customers.
The banking sector can play a key role in protecting victims of financial abuse and the new Financial Abuse Code of Practice to support victims is a positive step in the right direction.
The survivors we support finally feel they are being heard and next year we’ll be continuing this work in order to safeguard their future and break down the barriers they face.
We have the platform to protect survivors from domestic abuse, we have the commitment and understanding from the banking sector and the arena for survivors to have a voice. It is up to us to make it everybody’s business, so let us start 2019 with that very mission.