The Economic Abuse Threat Facing Girls & Women in the UK: New report reveals the six key life moments when women are most vulnerable to abuse

A new report has identified the 6 Moments That Matter in which customers and employees experiencing economic abuse can be supported by organisations across the financial services sector. A stand-alone version of the report has also been produced for employers.

The report, The Economic Abuse Threat facing Girls & Women in the UK: 6 Moments That Matter in the Lives of Female Survivors has been written by Jane Portas, creator of 6 Moments That Matter, and Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, founder and CEO of Surviving Economic Abuse.

The 6 Moments That Matter are key points during all our lives where we can take control to secure our financial future. They are: Growing Up, Studying & Re-Qualifying; Entering & Re-Entering the Workplace; Relationships: Making Up & Breaking Up; Parenthood & Becoming a Carer; Later Life, Planning & Entering Retirement; and Ill-health, Infirmity & and Dying.

These key points in girls’ and women’s lives were reinforced through focus group discussions with female survivors of economic abuse.

The nature of domestic abuse means that abusers will use these moments as opportunities to control and coerce. For many survivors, abusers’ actions affect lifelong financial resilience and this report highlights how they can be helped to take back control. 

In the UK, one in eight adults (12.2%)  – 5.9million people – experience economic abuse in their lifetime from a partner or family member. 4.2 million of them are women.

The report is calling on the financial services sector and organisations across the financial system including banks, insurers, financial guidance, trade and professional bodies, and employers more broadly, to follow the momentum of the recently passed Domestic Abuse Act passed in April 2021, which includes economic abuse, and to adopt holistic and person-led approaches to support female survivors, while working towards protecting customers and employees from future abuse. Everyone has a role to play.

Currently, the financial services sector is a provider of day-to-day bank accounts to 51.1 million adult customers, insurance to nine in ten adults and an employer of 1.1 million people. These numbers illustrate that the financial services sector is particularly well placed to tackle economic abuse. Employers also play a vital role: 1.5 million women in the UK say their partner prevents them from working or they work for their partner’s or a joint business without pay, 1 in 5 women who experience domestic abuse report having to take time off work and 1.7 million women say their long-term employment prospects/earnings were worse because of the abuse they had experienced.  Currently, only 5% of employers currently have policies on domestic abuse, fewer still on economic abuse.

The report includes a PEOPLE Framework which offers a blueprint to help inform approaches to economic abuse appropriate to the organisation.

A panel of leading figures from the financial services sector, alongside the report’s authors, launched the report on 20th July.  SEA is pleased that the Financial Conduct Authority, UK Finance and the Association of British Insurers are supporting this work, together with the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse, and looks forward to working across the sector to take the findings forward.

Recommendations made by the report include: a person-led approach to support a coordinated, holistic response to economic abuse including for complex cases, which sees the financial services sector work with government, employers and the third sector, among others; the collection of intersectional and life circumstances data to better support a diversity of survivors; and the need for awareness raising.

Download the report for financial services to support customers 

Download the report for employers supporting employees 

Jane Portas, creator of 6 Moments That Matter and the PEOPLE Framework and co-founder of Insuring Women’s Futures said: “What this work shows us is how girls’ and women’s vulnerability to, and experience of economic abuse, and consequently their financial, physical and emotional safety, varies at key points across life stages. To most effectively tackle economic abuse we need to work together in joined up ways across government, regulators, financial services, employers, family lawyers, prosecutors, the third sector and with people. This way we can safely help survivors to rebuild their lives and put a stop to abusers by empowering everyone and innovating approaches to prevent economic abuse. I am grateful to the survivors who shared their stories. I am looking forward to helping take these findings forward and have been so impressed by the work SEA does. I encourage everyone to support the charity so that we can help put an end to economic abuse.”

Find out more about Jane Portas’s 6 Moments That Matter framework.

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, founder and CEO of Surviving  Economic Abuse (SEA) said: “Since founding SEA four years ago, I have spoken to hundreds of survivors about their experiences of economic abuse. It is clear there are certain moments in a woman’s life which abusers exploit or sabotage in order to control a victim. Understanding when these moments arise will help us all better support survivors. Chiefly, I would like to thank the brave women who used their voices to inform this important work. I would also like to pay tribute to Jane Portas for her dedication to transforming responses to economic abuse in the UK”. 

Nisha Arora, Director of Retail & Consumer Policy, The Financial Conduct Authority said:

“Domestic abuse, including economic control, is widespread and has devastating impacts. This report provides valuable insights into how economic abuse affects survivors relationships with financial services firms. It’s important firms understand how perpetrators of economic abuse can use financial services to carry out abuse. We want firms to safely provide survivors of economic abuse with the support they need.” 

Karen Baxter, Managing Director, Intelligence Strategy for Economic Crime, Lead for Diversity and Inclusion, UK Finance

“Domestic, financial and economic abuse can happen to anyone and the consequences can be devastating.  We recognise that seeking help is the first step in an individual’s journey to regaining control of their money and independence and it is imperative that they are treated in a sensitive, compassionate manner which makes them feel safe and believed.

In 2018 UK Finance published the Financial Abuse Code of Practice which provides guidance for firms on how they can recognise and respond to customers in vulnerable circumstances.  Three years on and with the publication of the FCA Vulnerability Guidance, coupled with an increase in the incidence of domestic and economic abuse, accelerated by the pandemic, now is the right time for the financial services sector to reflect on the progress made and the work still to be done.  This report provides a valuable insight into six key moments in a woman’s life where the risk of economic abuse increases and it will be a key part of our work as we consider how we can enhance the Code and support we provide”.

Huw Evans, Director General, Association of British Insurers (ABI)

“Economic abuse is devastating for its victims but still remains largely unseen by wider society. Restricting, exploiting, and sabotaging access to financial services products is not only wrong, it is also a key factor that stops people escaping other forms of domestic abuse. This report is a vital intervention, highlighting the devastating impacts of economic abuse, and what actions need to be taken across the financial system.

Insurance and long-term savings companies have an essential role to play to help prevent scenarios when economic abuse can take place and to ensure there is ongoing support to victims and survivors. Working with SEA in recent years has helped improve awareness across our industry of signs to look out for and how to support survivors. We are committed to doing more to raise awareness and improve understanding of how abusers operate and to equip our members and their employees to take action.”

Elizabeth Filkin, Chair Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA)

“The role of employers in tackling domestic abuse, by supporting their staff and raising awareness through their networks, is vital. During the pandemic, we have seen a marked increase in businesses recognising the positive impact they can have. Understanding the many forms that abuse can take is crucial to ensuring their role is maximised. To that end, this report, and the work of Surviving Economic Abuse, is incredibly important. We will not hesitate to share it among our employer members.”

Copyright © 2021 Jane Portas.  6 Moments That Matter. All rights reserved.