Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA), the only UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of and transforming responses to economic abuse, shares stories from survivors on why the new Code is so important
Wednesday 10th October 2018: UK – Today, the financial services industry has introduced a voluntary Code of Practice to guide how banks and building societies respond to victims of financial abuse. This will bring increased awareness and better understanding of what financial abuse looks like – enabling financial institutions to reach out to customers and ensuring more consistency in the support available for those who need it.
Surviving Economic Abuse, the only UK charity specialising in this field, welcomes the Code and would like to provide some context from our own understanding of the issue.
SEA director, Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs states: “Through this Code, UK Finance has created a powerful ‘invitation to tell’ which, combined with the training proposed, means that responses to customers should be more informed and consistent going forward. It is a great first step and we look forward to seeing advancement of knowledge and protocol within banks and other financial institutions across the country.”
SEA sits on UK Finances’ Financial Abuse Project Group and Consumer Advisory Group, which advised on the formation of this code.
Financial abuse commonly involves withholding information about household finances, controlling access to personal/joint finances and creating financial obligations in the name of the victim either without their knowledge or through coercion. (Financial abuse is part of economic abuse which involves interfering with a partner’s ability to acquire, use and maintain not only money but economic resources (such as housing, transportation) more broadly.) This makes unravelling the extent of financial obligations post-relationship extremely challenging. Being financially linked to an abusive partner post separation can also be dangerous.
This is not routinely understood by financial institutions, including banks. The following examples, shared by women from SEA’s Experts by Experience group, highlight how banks and financial institutions can inadvertently facilitate financial abuse:
“We had a joint account and he ran up bills, which I was liable for. He left and the bank couldn’t get hold of him.”
“Branch staff accidentally left the screen of his bank transactions visible while in branch – they knew, and I knew he had enough money to pay the overdraft he was trying to make me pay for him, 5 years after the divorce.”
“I was horrified. I immediately telephoned the bank who told me it was only a standard letter and nothing to be concerned about. I explained my situation, that I needed to be safe and that the joint account had been closed some 3 months previously – I was told that standard letters are prepared months in advance and there was nothing they could do. They said I had to just phone the police. Obviously, I had already done that but the damage had been done. I packed my bags and moved that night.”
These stories demonstrate the huge impact that the Code of Practice could have by enabling staff to identify and respond to financial abuse, supporting victims to reclaim control of their finances and linking them into specialist domestic abuse services.
When financial institutions do respond effectively women tell us:
Similarly, for further information on any of the above please contact [email protected] or call our press office on 07833 162 714
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