Domestic and financial abuse cases will rise this winter, say charities

Charities are bracing for a spike in economic abuse cases this winter, as figures from Surviving Economic Abuse show that two-thirds of victims are already unable to afford their living expenses.

Data from financial services and charities sheds light on the current scale of economic abuse in the UK, exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.

Online bank Monzo has reported that customer reports of domestic and financial abuse through its in-app chat tool have increased eightfold in the six months between May and November 2022 compared to the same period last year.

Charities expect reports of abuse to worsen over winter amid cost-of-living crisis

Similarly, domestic violence charity Hestia reported a 158 percent increase in the number of people using an “online safe space,” with 178,000 users in October, compared to its average of 70,000 per month.

Online safe spaces are portals where victims can find support, advice and contact numbers, without leaving internet traces.

In response to the crisis, TSB has launched an ‘Emergency Flee Fund’ to offer existing customers payments of up to £500 to help them escape an abusive relationship.

The fund, which will provide £50 to £500 based on the individual’s needs, will help victims with the cost of essentials such as travel, clothing and toiletries. TSB is the first bank to offer the service publicly.

Patrick Ryan, CEO of Hestia, said: ‘Online safe spaces are an essential way for victims to access life-saving information and advice without worrying about their search history being discovered, and we’ve seen a huge increase in their use in recent months.

“Now more than ever it is vital that all victims of domestic violence know they are not alone, which is why we are grateful to TSB for joining us as the first partner to host both physical and online safe spaces.”

Surviving Economic Abuse also found that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of victims of economic abuse had less than £100 to their credit at the end of each month.

Women who cannot afford £100 in the short term are 3.5 times more likely to experience other forms of domestic violence than financial abuse, it said.

Charity Women’s Aid also found that three-quarters of women living with or financially linked to the perpetrator of their abuse said the cost-of-living crisis had either prevented them from leaving or made it more difficult for them to leave .

Lack of excess resources and mounting debt will leave victims unable to leave the abusers and more vulnerable to serious physical, emotional and economic harm, Dr. Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, CEO and founder of Surviving Economic Abuse, told This is Money .

The average debt level of victims has also risen significantly since the onset of Covid-19 to £20,000, compared to around £3,000 in 2020 – a staggering 567 per cent increase.

In cases of economic abuse, one of the tactics used by perpetrators is to pressure their victim to take out loans or other forms of credit, or to do so themselves on behalf of their victims.

The cost-of-living crisis is expected to drive up this debt figure in the new year.

Surviving Economic Abuse spoke to 278 domestic violence survivors as part of the Economic Justice Project, and 60 percent said they had experienced at least one form of forced debt.

At the bottom of this article you can find out where to get help if you or a friend or family member is experiencing financial abuse.

Warning signs of domestic and financial abuse

According to Dr. Sharp-Jeffs, the signs of economic abuse include:

Not having enough money: leave their wallet ‘at home’ a few times; being short of money or unable to buy cheap items, even if they work.

Jjoint finances: seems to have some kind of “conflict” with a partner about money, income or savings; say their partner handles all money matters, and have no knowledge of service providers or how much things cost.

Shopping habits: always with cash and no card; counting the pennies and making long decisions while shopping; buy cheap items; ask their partner’s permission before making purchases.

Does not work: leave work when they liked their job; express a desire to work, but their partner does not support them to do so

seem anxious: hide what they bought so their partner doesn’t see it; “overreacting” to normal situations, such as going out to dinner or planning a vacation

It’s worth remembering that every experience of domestic and financial abuse is different, she says, which is why the signs can often differ.

Calls for a government-backed domestic violence fund

Domestic Violence Commissioner Nicole Jacobs has called on the government to establish a fund, similar to TSB’s plan, to help all victims of domestic violence.

Similar calls are being made by Women’s Aid and Surviving Economic Abuse, who want the government to provide an emergency fund for every local authority.

The fund would help women flee domestic violence and cover the short-term costs of moving.

The fund should be available to all women, the charities say, including women who do not rely on public funds.

In addition, Dr. Sharp-Jeffs wants financial services farms to provide a “consistent response” to victim-survivors, with banks committing to best practices and high-quality responses.

She has also called on The Financial Conduct Authority to review what financial services companies are doing with regard to economic abuse.

“The government needs to understand how to improve its practices and policies to address economic abuse, including for victim survivors of uncertain immigration status,” she says.

“An important part of this would be to exempt abuse victim survivors from the means test for legal aid, to ensure they have access to the legal support they so desperately need as they escape abusive partners and get their lives back on track. build up.’

Where to get help if you are facing financial abuse

  • Find support. Call 999 if you are in immediate danger.
  • If you don’t have access to a phone and can’t leave the house, go to the nearest one physical safe space.
  • You can use the safe room however you like, it provides a discreet space to call family/friends and other support services such as the free national domestic violence helpline (0808 2000 247)
  • If you have access to the internet, there are also online safe spaces where you can find useful information about other services in addition to physical safe spaces.
  • If you and your children need a place of refuge, you can call Hestia’s referral line on 0808 169 9975 to find a place.
  • The website of Surviving Economic Abuse has information and resources for those experiencing economic abuse, including a specific cost-of-living source.
  • The Financial Helpline for Victims of Domestic Abuse is run by Money Advice Plus in partnership with Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA). To contact the Financial Support Line, call 0808 1968845 (Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm).
  • Survive economic abuse Survivors Forum is a safe and supportive space for women to share their experiences of economic abuse and connect with other survivors.

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