Award-winning charity partners Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) and Money Advice Plus (MAP) are issuing a stark warning regarding the high levels of need’ of anticipated this winter from abuse victims due to the cost-of-living crisis, described by one frontline service worker as expecting a “tsunami”.
Due to increasing energy and food costs MAP is already seeing an alarming increase in domestic abuse clients with a negative budget, up 7% to 40% over the last six months alone. This means that the charity is no longer able to reassure victims that they can leave an abuser and be financially secure . Debt advisors are also warning that they are faced with the difficult decision of withholding potential “lifeline” solutions now, waiting to deploy these when the crisis hits in the colder months and victims will be in even greater need.
In addition, 27% of those contacting the debt advice charity have less than £100 surplus at the end of each month. Research has shown that a woman who can’t access £100 at short notice is 3.5 times more likely to experience domestic abuse.
The financial burden expected this winter will only compound the damage done during the pandemic. Currently, victim-survivors have average individual debts of more than £20,000 – six times the average debt previously suggested by research undertaken by Refuge two years ago.
As seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, SEA is hearing reports of abusers using the cost-of-living crisis as a tool for abuse, using it to push victims further into debt and sabotaging their economic security.
Consequently, victims of economic abuse, a form of coercive and controlling behavior recognised in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, will be entering this crisis on the financial backfoot with less surplus income and increased debt which will directly and dramatically impact their safety.
Victims of abuse and their children will be unable to leave abusers and therefore become extremely vulnerable to ongoing, increased harm and, in some cases, homicide.
A recent Woman’s Aid study found 73% of those living with an abuser said the crisis had either prevented them from leaving or made it harder to do so.
NatWest’s CircleFund, delivered by the charity SafeLives via services such as MAP is in high demand, also highlighting the increase in need. Previously, MAP granted £5,000 to victims over an 18-month period. The same amount has been requested in the last six months alone. Reflecting the severity of the moment, the private sector is offering vital, life-saving support in the absence of adequate government support.
This is why SEA is supporting the Women’s Aid call for the government to create an Emergency Support Fund so that all victims of domestic abuse can access safety in the coming months. Frontline service workers have also warned that family and friends who may have once been able to offer respite and help may no longer be in the position to do so due to the economic crisis, further isolating victims.
Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, founder and CEO of Surviving Economic Abuse says:
“1 in 6 women in the UK will experience economic abuse and we are extremely concerned for victims in the coming months. Victim-survivors already face control and manipulation of their economic resources at the hands of abusers, plunged into debt, forced to live in poverty and/ or to exist in a constant state of economic insecurity and instability. Simultaneously facing a cost-of-living crisis without adequate government support is nothing less than state sanctioned economic abuse, aiding and abetting abusers to rob victims of their freedom and leaving them vulnerable to considerable harm”
Karen Perrier, Chief Executive of Money Advice Plus says:
“We are experiencing an unprecedented demand for our services. The number of victim-survivors who don’t have enough money to live off, let alone keep themselves safe, is frightening. As winter fast approaches and the cost-of-living crisis worsens, an Emergency Support Fund is critical to support victim-survivors in the UK and allow them to safely move forward with their lives.”
If you are experiencing economic abuse, our Cost of Living resource contains information on support that may be available to you.
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