If a current or former partner has interfered with your money or economic resources in some way to limit your choices, you may be a victim of economic abuse.
If you are worried about your safety and your economic situation, support is available. There are some immediate steps you can take to protect yourself and begin to regain control.
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Economic abuse often occurs alongside other forms of abuse.1 It is commonly part of a pattern of behaviour called coercive control. If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999.
If you are not in immediate danger but have concerns about your safety, there are domestic abuse helplines that you can call, many of which offer a 24-hour service.
You can search for your local service on the Women’s Aid website. Your local service can help you to think about what you want to do next, such as find somewhere safe to stay, and provide the support you need. They may be able to support you to set up independent financial services. If you have been coerced into debt, they can refer you to specialist debt advice services.
The Financial Support Line for Victims of Domestic Abuse is run in partnership between Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) and Money Advice Plus. It offers specialist advice to people experiencing domestic abuse who are in financial difficulty. To contact the Financial Support Line, call or text 0808 1968845 (9am–5pm Monday to Friday). You can also email [email protected].
Organisations including StepChange and National Debtline also have qualified advisers trained to offer specialist debt advice. They can outline the options you may have for dealing with your debts and help you to make any important financial decisions.
There is a list of organisations that you may find useful on our website. If you are confident to do so, it may help to explain to them that you are a victim of domestic abuse. This will help them take your safety into account. A domestic abuse support worker may be able to support you to do this.
It is important not to take action to tackle debts until you speak to a qualified debt adviser, as some debt solutions can have serious long-term consequences.
You may need to wait for an appointment with a specialist service. If you are preparing to leave or have recently left, there are other things that you can do while you wait to help prevent further economic abuse and to take steps towards safety.
The abuser may have withheld this information but, if you can, find out what assets, accounts and debts are in your name.
Many banks and building societies have signed up to the UK Finance 2021 Financial Abuse Code. This means they have committed to inform victims of domestic abuse about assets and liabilities held in their name.
Some questions you can start with include:
Only do this if you can do so safely. You may need copies of these documents for things like accessing benefits, opening a bank account, or starting a new job. Important documents include:
You may wish to keep these documents with a trusted friend or family member, rather than somewhere in your home if the abuser also lives there.
If you are unable to take the original documents safely, scanned copies, a picture or a screenshot of the documents may also be useful. If you can’t take copies, try to note down or memorise any important information, such as bank account numbers, or your National Insurance number.
Apps such as Bright Sky let you upload photos in a secure way, without any content being saved on the device you use.
If you can, take the following steps to sort out your bills:
If it is safe to do so, try to:
If you do not already have a bank account in your own name, this is an important step to allow you to receive benefits or wages, and to allow you to pay bills.
If you previously had a joint account with the abuser and/or know where they bank, open an account with a different bank. This will avoid the risk of the abuser getting access to your new address through accounts being linked. Some banks offer an untraceable sort code. HSBC will open basic bank accounts through the No Fixed Address service.
SEA has a resource with more information on how to open a new bank account safely.
If you have a joint bank account with the person who is abusing you, you can ask the bank to freeze the account. This can be a very important step to prevent the abuser withdrawing all the money from or incurring an overdraft on the account.
You may want to withdraw money before freezing the account, as you will not be able to do so when it is frozen. Unfreezing the account will require the consent of all named account holders.
Consider carefully whether freezing your account could lead to further harm. Remember that using a joint account after you have left could give the abuser access to your location (e.g., through cash machine locations or on bank statements).
If you think the abuser has access to or could guess your PIN number or password for online banking, change them if you can do so safely. Remember that they will know things like the year you were born, your mother’s maiden name and the name of your pet so try and use PINs and passwords that they wouldn’t think of.
If the abuser is named as a secondary cardholder on your account, you can call the card issuer and ask for them to be removed. Similarly, you can remove yourself as a secondary cardholder if you have access to a credit card in your partner’s name.
We have further information on how your bank can support you if you are experiencing economic abuse.
Turn2Us has a benefits calculator online that could help you to know what benefits might be available to help you financially. You could also make an appointment with your local Citizens Advice. This fact sheet from the Department for Work and Pensions has information about support for people who have experienced domestic abuse.
Some charities and organisations provide grants to people in financial difficulty. Search on the Turn2Us website to find out whether you might be eligible for any grants to provide financial assistance. We have a list of some grants and other financial support that you may be eligible to receive.
Many local councils have a welfare assistance scheme or hardship fund for people on a low income who are experiencing financial difficulty. Contact your local council to see if they have a scheme and to find out whether you are eligible. Some offer loans, grants or support in other ways, such as food vouchers.
If you need help with emergency food, you can contact your local foodbank. You may need a referral from a local advice agency, but they will be able to point you in the right direction.
Do you have friends or family who you could stay with temporarily? Think about whether it is safe for you to stay with them, and whether you will need to make a financial contribution.
Your local council may be able to support you with a longer-term solution. Local councils are legally obliged to provide interim accommodation to people who need to leave home due to domestic abuse. The council may ask you for details of the abuse. You can apply to a different local council for temporary accommodation if staying in your current area would put you at risk of further harm.
Refuges are available for people at immediate risk of danger. There are domestic abuse helplines that you can call if you need to find emergency accommodation in a refuge.
If you do not want to leave or feel unable to, you may be able to access a Sanctuary Scheme to secure your property. You could also apply for a court order that could order the abuser to leave the home. If you live in rented accommodation provided by a local council or housing association, your landlord may be able to seek a court order to remove the abuser. Speak to your local domestic abuse service for further information.
We have more information that may help you with finding somewhere safe to life.
While these options may not provide a long-term solution, they can help you to gain more knowledge and control of your situation, help prevent further economic abuse and may help you be safer.
Remember to only take any of these actions if you are sure that it is safe to do so and would not lead to further harm from the abuser.
If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.
You may also find the Women’s Aid Survivor’s Handbook useful.
Last updated August 2020
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