Economic abuse finally in ‘plain sight’ thanks to draft Domestic Abuse Bill

Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) welcomes the draft Domestic Abuse Bill published today. The inclusion of economic abuse within the statutory definition responds to our call to bring this invisible but devastating form of abuse into ‘plain sight’.

Economic abuse creates practical barriers to leaving an abusive partner. Lack of access to money, transportation and somewhere to live means that victims often stay in a relationship for longer than they would like and experience more harm as a result. It also thwarts the ability of victims to rebuild their lives – testimony about which can be found in the report of the roundtable we organised with ‘Experts by Experience’ as part of the Government’s consultation on the Bill.

It is important that the draft Bill addresses the broad range of issues that economic abuse impacts – from financial, to housing, to criminal justice.

 

Housing

SEA welcomes the new measure that, where a local authority grants a new secure tenancy for reasons of domestic abuse to a tenant who used to have a secure lifetime or assured tenancy, that the new tenancy is also a secure lifetime tenancy.

 

Criminal

In addition, the review of relevant legal guidance for prosecutors to ensure cases of economic abuse can be successfully prosecuted responds to our recommendation that this form of abuse be ‘named’ in prosecutions of the coercive or controlling behaviour offence introduced in December 2015.

 

Further non-statutory measures

SEA is proud to be contributing to the non-legislative package of support on economic abuse announced alongside the Bill. This includes working in partnership with the National Skills Academy for Financial Services and Gentoo to develop and deliver financial capability training for frontline practitioners working with individuals who are experiencing economic abuse.

 

Dr Nicola Sharp- Jeffs, Director of Surviving Economic Abuse said:

“Through committing to ensure that practitioners have access to training and guidance on economic abuse, the Government has recognised that physical and economic safety are entwined. These new measures will help bring economic abuse out of the shadows and will transform responses, ensuring that victim-survivors are able to access the support they so desperately need.”

 

Whilst we are delighted to learn that non-legislative actions include appointing a domestic abuse specialist in each Jobcentre to support claimants who are victims of domestic abuse (see SEA’s evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee) we are deeply disappointed that the Bill does not include measures to ensure separate payments of Universal Credit to couples claiming joint benefits. It is vital that Government policy is consistent, and that action is taken to close down systems that inadvertently facilitate abuse.

Finally, the ‘cost of domestic abuse’ analysis also published today provides a powerful illustration of the economic impact of domestic abuse on society more broadly, with lost output estimated at £14bn for the year ending March 2017. Behaviours that interfere with a victim’s ability to work – coercive control, psychological abuse, isolation – mean that many victims go on to lose their jobs and access to the income they need to be independent. Economic stability is linked to physical safety. By naming economic abuse within the statutory definition and recognising the different ways it impacts victims’ lives we hope to see effective action taken to understand, prevent and transform responses to it at every juncture.