Conversation kit to introduce economic abuse

This conversation kit has been developed to explore the concept of economic abuse and the forms that it takes, helping victim-survivors make connections between the abuser’s actions and their economic situation.

It can be used to introduce the topic of economic abuse before systematically asking women about the different forms of economic abuse (using a screening tool) that they might have experienced in order to understand the full extent of what has happened/is happening.

The conversation kit can be used on a one-to-one basis as part of your casework. Alternatively, it can be used to structure a workshop with a group of women.

In order to use the conversation kit effectively, we recommend that you undertake training on economic abuse.

Find out more about our training courses

Introducing economic abuse

This session is designed to ‘set the scene’ before asking the questions set out in the economic abuse screening tool.

The conversation detailed below will take about 75 minutes. If you don’t have time to cover everything, it is possible to reduce the session by choosing which of the four examples you want to cover.

While it is possible to skip straight to screening for economic abuse, please try to avoid this. The women who piloted the tool explained that they were better able to answer the screening questions when they understood what economic abuse is and its links to male privilege.

Aim of this session

To introduce the concept of economic abuse and to explore how abusers exploit women’s economic inequality and/or create economic instability.

Learning outcomes

  • Understand that economic abuse is used by abusers as a method of power and control.
  • Understand how economic abuse creates economic dependency, instability and risk.

Resource checklist for this session

Section 1 (5 mins): The power and control wheel

Introduce and talk through each segment of the Power and Control Wheel reinforcing that domestic violence is more than physical abuse and that abusers will use different tactics to exert power and control in a relationship. Finish with the ‘Economic Abuse’ segment.

Introduce the definition of economic abuse. Explain that you will use the four examples in this segment to explore the definition and illustrate how abusers interfere with women’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources.

Wherever possible in the conversations outlined below, make links with gender inequality/male privilege. Examples might include: the ‘breadwinner model’ (in which men go to work and earn money and women care for children/the home); the gender pay-gap; and how, because of caring responsibilities, women are more likely to be in part-time and low paid work. This will help illustrate how economic abuse can be ‘hidden in plain sight’ and that abusers draw on social structures to perpetrate it.

Section 2 (10 mins): Economic abuse example 1

The first example of economic abuse is ‘preventing her from getting or keeping a job’. Ask how this is significant. What is the purpose of this behaviour? What impact will it have?

Discussion prompts:

  • What do you get from having a job?
  • What would be the impact on you if your partner’s behaviour meant you weren’t allowed to work, were at risk of losing your job or had to give it up?

Steer the discussion towards the following points:

  • Controlling a woman’s ability to acquire an independent income (either through wages or benefits) is one of the ways through which abusers make women dependent on them and limit their ‘space for action’. Lack of access to economic resources is a barrier to leaving an abusive partner.
  • Abusers may feel threatened if their partner has a better job/higher status/a higher salary.


‘Preventing her from getting or keeping a job’ is an example of behaviour that interferes with women’s ability to acquire income (an economic resource) and this creates economic dependency and barriers to leaving.

Section 3 (10 mins): Economic abuse example 2

The second example of economic abuse is ‘making her ask for money’. Ask how power might be exerted if one partner must ask another for money.

Discussion prompts:

  • Do you remember being a child and being given pocket money? Would you have to do jobs to get this? Was having your pocket money stopped a punishment? Is it right if a partner acts in the same way?
  • Have you ever claimed benefits? Are there conditions attached to accessing benefits? What happens if these are not met? Who has the power – you or the government?

Steer the discussion towards the following points:

  • Abusers have the power to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or to agree to give you money. They may only give it to you under certain conditions e.g. begging, in return for sex or doing other things you don’t want to do.
  • Abusers may only give you small amounts of money at a time. They may prevent you from accessing your own money.
  • As in example one, not having easy access to money makes it difficult to leave.


‘Making her ask for money’ puts women in a situation where they are at risk of being exploited by the abuser. It interferes with women’s ability to acquire economic resources and leave.

Section 4 (10 mins): Economic abuse example 3

The third example of economic abuse is ‘giving her an allowance’. Ask how this might be controlling.

Discussion prompts:

  • What if you earn your own money/claim benefits and this is paid into a joint account from which you are given an allowance?
  • What if the allowance isn’t enough for your household and children’s needs?

Steer the discussion towards the following points:

  • Abusers may take your money and decide how much you should be given.
  • Abusers may provide an allowance they know is insufficient, forcing you to have to ask for more money (example two), use savings/sell or pawn belongings or borrow money from friends/family/money lender which needs to be paid back.
  • Eating into your savings or having to sell/pawn your belongings means that you are unable to maintain the economic resources you do have. Being in debt means that repayments must also be met.


‘Giving her an allowance’ is a way of controlling what money she has access to. This can interfere with women’s ability to maintain economic resources as they may have to seek ‘top-up’ money by drawing on savings, pawning/selling possessions and/or borrowing money.

Section 5 (10 mins): Economic abuse example 4

The fourth example of economic abuse is ‘not letting her know about or have access to family income’. Ask how this can be a method of control.

Discussion prompts:

  • What are the implications of being ‘financially blind’?
  • How might this influence your decision to leave or get a divorce?

Steer the discussion towards the following points:

  • Abusers may not tell you what their income is. You may not know if there are any savings to fall back on, whose name the mortgage/ tenancy is in and whether the mortgage/rent is being paid.
  • It is difficult to seek help/approach a bank/solicitor if you don’t know/ can’t access information that they need.
  • This may have implications when you are considering leaving/seeking a divorce because you won’t know what economic resources may be available to you.


‘Not letting her know about of have access to family income’ is a way of keeping women dependent because they don’t know what economic resources they do have and whether or not these are at risk.

Section 6 (10 mins): More economic abuse examples

Stress that economic abuse is not just about interfering with money and finances, but economic resources more broadly – those things that money can buy (i.e. housing, possessions, clothing etc.).

The behaviours covered in the economic abuse segment of the Power and Control Wheel do not address all the different behaviours that an abuser might use. There are lots of other ways in which an abuser can control someone’s ability to acquire, use and maintain resources.

These behaviours can fall under three categories.

1. Restriction: the abuser insisting on seeing receipts or running through bank statements line-by-line; making her ask to use utilities, use the car or take food out of the fridge, etc.

2. Exploitation: the abuser pawning/selling her belongings; stealing her savings; making her work but taking her wages, etc.

3. Sabotage: the abuser destroying her belongings; the abuser making her lose her job, etc.

Refusing to contribute (Sharp, 2008). An abuser may let her have access to her own money but refuse to contribute to any household costs such as rent/mortgage, utility bills, food bills, transport costs, childcare, etc. This may lead women to have to fall back on their savings, get into debt. Such behaviour absorbs any spare income and may lead to a poor credit record. It creates economic instability and may also be a barrier to leaving.

Ask the woman if she can think of examples where her (ex)partner interfered with her ability to acquire, use or maintain economic resources.

If the woman struggles to identify any examples, then move straight on to introducing the Economic Abuse Wheel.


Economic abuse can take many different forms and women experience it in different ways.

Section 7 (10 mins): Economic abuse wheel

Introduce the Economic Abuse Wheel. Look at how economic abuse can overlap with and be used to reinforce the other segments of the wheel.

Start with example three – borrowing money and/or other economic resources from friends and family can have a negative impact on relationships if the money is not paid back or the item not returned. This can lead to isolation.

If the woman has discussed examples of economic abuse with you, then locate where they sit/might sit within the wheel.

Section 8 (5 mins): Using male privilege

If the woman was unable to identify examples but has recognised some behaviours within the Economic Abuse Wheel, reassure her that economic abuse can be hard to recognise because it is ‘threaded’ through other forms of power and control.

Use the ‘male privilege’ section to explore how economic abuse can be ‘hidden in plain sight’ since it draws on gender norms and stereotypes.

Explain that another reason why economic abuse is difficult to talk about is because, as a society, we don’t generally talk about money. For instance, people rarely disclose how much they earn or if they’ve got money problems because they might feel embarrassed or ashamed. Women are socialized to think that men are better at managing money. This can undermine women’s confidence in money matters, especially if the abuser draws on this and tells her that women are useless with money/finances.

Highlight how, in practice, women are usually excellent household managers. That they find ways to provide for themselves and their families in really difficult situations. That they put the needs of their children before their own wellbeing e.g. go without food themselves to make sure there’s enough for their children.

Section 9 (5 mins): Introduce the follow-up session and screening tool

Once you have completed the introductory session above, you can follow-up with with the screening tool immediately or in your next casework session. The screening tool is designed to support you to identify whether someone you are working with is experiencing economic abuse.

Use the remaining time to explain that, having explored what economic abuse is and the different forms it takes, the next step will be to screen for economic abuse. Introduce the screening tool explaining that the questions asked will help to help identify how participants may have been affected by ‘economic abuse’, and if so, how the service can best support them.

Follow-up session: screening for economic abuse

Last updated July 2022

Further support