SEA welcomes recognition of economic abuse in the reintroduced Domestic Abuse Bill

Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) welcomes the inclusion of economic abuse in the statutory definition of domestic abuse that the reintroduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill contains. It will finally recognise economic abuse as a form of coercive control that sits alongside physical, sexual and emotional/psychological abuse – all of which are often experienced concurrently by victim-survivors domestic abuse. This is a hugely important step forward.

One in six of the UK population has experienced economic abuse from a current or former partner[1] and 95% of victim-survivors of domestic abuse will experience economic abuse.

Naming economic abuse helps raise awareness of it; creates a framework through which we can respond; and holds perpetrators accountable.

SEA also welcomes the establishment of the office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner whose role it is to oversee and monitor the national response to domestic abuse. We are keen to see work to address economic stability reflected within specialist responses to domestic abuse, since economic safety underpins physical safety.

It is important that once economic abuse is given the statutory recognition it is due, then government policies are reviewed accordingly to make sure they do not inadvertently undermine and/or facilitate economic abuse. We see this, for instance, in the social security system, and in access to legal aid.

As SEA has highlighted to Government, the single payment in the case of joint claims for Universal Credit can facilitate economic abuse and act as a barrier to leaving and rebuilding lives. Similarly, the legal aid means test is unfair for domestic abuse survivors who are required to pay contributions they cannot afford, since it may be based on an assessment of assets which they cannot access due to economic abuse. Both issues need to be reviewed.

Furthermore, SEA is leading the call for an amendment to section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 so that controlling or coercive behaviour, including economic abuse, is recognised and can be prosecuted post-separation. We know that at least 65% of successfully prosecuted cases already contain an element of economic abuse and that this form of abuse commonly continues or escalates post-separation.

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Chief Executive of Surviving Economic Abuse says: “We’re pleased to see the reintroduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill, and are delighted that economic abuse is named in the definition of domestic abuse, something we have worked long and hard for. We look forward to working with government and statutory agencies to increase understanding of economic abuse and reflect this understanding in their practices.”

[1] Refuge. (2020). Know Economic Abuse, Refuge: London