This page gives information on some of the options to help you and your children reach safety. It also outlines some financial support that may be available.
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Perpetrators of economic abuse use many tactics to gain power and control. If you have children, these tactics will impact them too.
An abuser may use or involve children in their behaviour in any of the following ways:
Any of these actions may form part of the abuser’s pattern of behaviour to control you and your children. They may prevent you from being able to leave and live independently. The abuser may also do any of these things to try to control you after you have separated.
The abuser may not use the children as part of the abuse. However, the abuse may still affect them.
We have information on reaching safety if you or your children are in immediate danger or need support.
The Domestic Abuse Act (2021) for England and Wales recognises children as victims of domestic abuse. They are victims of domestic abuse if they see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse. This applies if the child is related to the victim or to the abuser. This change means statutory services can better support children affected by domestic abuse.
Finding somewhere safe to live may be your top priority if you are planning to leave the abuser.
You may prefer to leave in a safe and planned way. If you are at risk of harm, you may need to leave immediately. Your options may include:
If you and your children need to leave your home due to domestic abuse, you may be able to get Housing Benefit. See more information on financial support below.
Our information on finding a safe place to live includes more detail on these and other options.
Economic abuse can leave you struggling to afford essentials, especially if you have children to care for. An abuser may tell you that you could not cope financially without them. However, support is available for you and your children.
You can contact your local authority‘s Family and Children’s Services department to ask for financial support. They may be able to provide this under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This law means they have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of all ‘children in need’ in their local area. The support they can offer will depend on your circumstances. They may be able to provide help with the cost of food, gas or electricity, for example.
There may be a Family Liaison Officer or Safeguarding Lead at your child’s school. This person may be able to help you contact the local authority for financial support.
Some organisations give grants to people in financial difficulty. There may be specific grants to help you care for children after abuse. Find further information on grants that you may be eligible for.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to apply for government benefits. Some benefits are available to help you support your children:
If you already claim benefits jointly with the abuser, it is important to report a change in circumstances following domestic abuse. This will mean you can receive the benefits separately from the abuser.
Reporting a change in circumstances can sometimes affect the benefits the abuser receives. Think carefully about whether doing this could lead to further abuse. You can seek support from your local domestic abuse service if this is a risk for you.
You can report a change in circumstances using the Child Benefit online service. You can also call 0300 200 3100 (Mon–Fri, 8am–6pm). Child Benefit is not part of Universal Credit. You will need to report changes should separately even if you are claiming Universal Credit.
If you are working, you may be able to get financial support with your childcare costs.
Gingerbread has detailed information about childcare. This may help you understand your options and any benefits you may be able to claim.
The government’s childcare calculator can also help you work out:
The government website has information about your options for support with childcare costs.
Child maintenance can keep you tied to an abuser long after the relationship has ended. Many abusers withhold child maintenance payments to continue the abuse after separation.
Abusers may refuse to pay child maintenance if they do not see the child. If they are paying, they may try to tell you how to spend the money. This can be very distressing and can affect your economic stability. Both parents are responsible for supporting the children financially, regardless of access arrangements. The abuser has no right to tell you how to spend the money or to ask for proof of this.
Some survivors wish to cut all ties with the abuser and do not claim child maintenance for this reason. However, the Child Maintenance Service may be able to contact the abuser on your behalf to arrange payments.
The service can:
If the abuser refuses to pay child maintenance, in some cases the CMS may be able to:
There is normally a £20 application fee to use the CMS. Victims of domestic abuse should not have to pay. The Government has committed to removing this fee for all parents. This change is expected to come into force in early 2024. You can read more information on this change on the Government website.
There are two ways in which payments may be made if you use the CMS:
Gingerbread has helpful information to support you to use the CMS.
This can make it harder to enforce payment of child maintenance. A reciprocal enforcement maintenance order (REMO) is an international agreement to help enforce child maintenance payments. This can be used if one parent lives abroad. A REMO can also help a parent living abroad claim maintenance from the parent living in the UK.
You may wonder how you can support your children emotionally as well as practically following abuse.
These websites might help you talk about abuse with your children. Your child’s school or your doctor’s surgery may be able to refer them for counselling if this would be helpful.
Last updated April 2023
If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. There are more organisations that can help you. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.
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