Economic abuse – what can the insurance industry do?

“He took out life insurance on me. I tried to beg him to cancel the policy. I had to contact the insurance company, change the direct debit payments to my bank, then default to get it stopped.” Victim-survivor 

Economic abuse involves the control of someone’s money and finances, including insurance. Many victim-survivors of domestic abuse find themselves facing multiple challenges with insurance – barriers to accessing insurance, unfair rejection of claims or even having insurance used against them to create fear and intimidation.

This is why SEA, funded by the Aviva Foundation, has published a new briefing raising awareness of how victim-survivors of economic abuse are impacted by the insurance industry. This is the first in a set of briefings about what the financial sector can do to better support victim-survivors. Future briefings will focus on mortgages and life insurance.

To better protect victim-survivors, there is a need for a fuller understanding of economic abuse across the industry. This would enable products and processes to be adapted to support victim-survivors. The briefing is based on interviews with insurance industry stakeholders, data provided by Aviva plc and testimonies of victim-survivors of economic abuse. It also includes a set of practical recommendations, developed with experts from the industry, which can support insurance firms to act. 

Read the briefing here.  

If you work in the insurance industry and would like to find out more about what you can do to support victim-survivors, please get in touch at [email protected] 

Recommendations for the insurance industry to support victim-survivors of economic abuse 

Individual organisations 

  1. Build the capacity of staff to recognise and respond to domestic abuse including economic abuse, through employee inductions and training. Courses such as SEA’s ‘Economic Abuse and Financial Services’ can be adapted specifically for the insurance industry.
  2. Communicate regularly with customers and employees about domestic abuse including economic abuse and share positive changes in practice to build trust with victim-survivors. This raises awareness and reduces stigma in disclosing abuse.
  3. Create conditions which encourage disclosures, such as external information that victim-survivors can access to find out what support is available (for example, UK Finance ‘It’s your money leaflet’ for customers).
  4. Minimise the number of times a victim-survivor needs to share information about their circumstances through discreet and enhanced data recording. This also enhances information on the prevalence of domestic abuse, including economic abuse, which can be used to improve customer outcomes.
  5. Invest in reviews of products and processes to ensure the safety of victim-survivors, particularly in relation to the security of confidential information and communication preferences, in line with the Consumer Duty.
  6. Put processes in place that enable empowered staff to have greater flexibility around terms and conditions or policies when it is appropriate and necessary to do so.
  7. Develop new ways of working to reduce barriers to insurance for victim-survivors and respond to their needs. For example, inform customers that they can step away from digital and/or automated processes, making it clear how victimsurvivors can speak to a staff member directly.
  8. Support employees who are affected by domestic abuse including economic abuse or are working with customers affected by it. This could include creating an official domestic abuse policy and providing guidance to leaders on how to support and signpost staff.

Insurance industry more broadly 

  1. Work across the industry, including with the Association of British Insurers, to develop improved practices for the separation of joint policies in cases of economic abuse.
  2. Explore mechanisms to reduce foreseeable harms for victim-survivors where abusers can use insurance to perpetrate economic abuse. For example, reviewing the end-to-end customer journey to establish how abusers may exploit certain products – such as taking out a life insurance policy without the victim-survivors prior knowledge or consent.