Today, UK charity, Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) in partnership with Money Advice Plus launches a national advice service for banks and building societies. Funded by the Home Office, this service aims to build the capacity of banks and building societies to implement a new Financial Abuse Code of Practice which will improve their response to victim-survivors of domestic abuse, recognising them as vulnerable customers. The service also provides information to victim-survivors on how they can engage with banks and building societies and what can be done do to support them. The Code was launched by UK Finance in October 2018 and is supported by the Building Societies Association.
Quote from a victim-survivor of economic abuse: “Advocacy is so important – when you are fearing homelessness and losing the children. I found a senior person in the bank who advocated on my behalf from within. His advice made a huge difference.”
The service provides:
- A helpline for banks and building societies seeking to access expert advice for their work to support customers
- Training for staff working in banks and building societies to better understand and support customers
- Toolkits for banks and building societies to guide their interactions with customers
- Resources for victims who experience economic abuse within the context of domestic abuse on how they can engage with banks and buildings societies and what the banking industry can do to support them via the Code of Practice.
Leading the service is Banking and Insurance Advocate, Christina Govier. Christina has worked in the voluntary sector as an advocate supporting survivors of domestic abuse over the last 5 years.
Christina Govier, Banking and Insurance Advocate at Surviving Economic Abuse says: “We are really excited to be launching this advisory service for banks and building societies to support them to deliver an informed and high-quality service to customers who may be experiencing economic abuse.”
Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said:
“Domestic abuse is a horrendous crime that destroys lives. I know that economic abuse can leave victims isolated, vulnerable and at great risk.
“Financial services have a crucial role to play in tackling economic abuse and the Government is proud to support the Surviving Economic Abuse advice service for banks and building societies so that victims can be supported to achieve the economic stability that they need.
“Further to this, the Government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill will include a statutory definition of domestic abuse, which includes economic abuse, to raise awareness and ensure that it is fully understood and treated just as seriously as any other form of abuse.”
Eric Leenders, Managing Director of Personal Finance at UK Finance said: “The financial services industry can play a key role in helping combat financial abuse, offering support to victims to help them regain control of their money. This is why we launched the voluntary Code of Practice last year to provide banks and building societies with further guidance. SEA’s new national advice service will help support the roll-out of the voluntary Code, further raising awareness so that victims of financial abuse can receive the help and support they need.”
Fiona Cannon, Group Responsible Business, Sustainability & Inclusion Director, Lloyds Banking Group says, “We see the wide reaching impact domestic abuse can have both through our interactions with customers and colleagues and through the charities supported by our independent charitable Foundations. We know that many victims are not aware of economic abuse and the way it can lead to financial exclusion. So it’s fantastic that this resource for banks, buildings societies and victims of economic abuse will be available, enabling greater access to the support available for those who need it.”
This service follows on from SEA’s inaugural banking conference held last December and the announcement of its ‘best practice’ award which urges banks and financial institutions to be ambitious in their response to victims of economic and domestic abuse.
SEA is inviting financial institutions to tell us about their work in this area and to show case the practical difference that their initiatives have made for stakeholders- particularly those institutions that have gone above and beyond the remit of the Code in their efforts to transform the response to financial abuse.
Freelance financial journalist, Paul Lewis, will lead the panel of expert judges, which will meet at the end of the year to review best practice in this area.
The National advice service for banks and building societies will be evaluated by the University of Suffolk.