Lack of control over their economic situation can result in a victim-survivor staying with an abusive partner for longer. The primary reason women return to an abusive partner is ongoing interference with and lack of access to economic resources.
The criminal justice system, public sector agencies and victim support services must recognise economic abuse in safety planning. This will reduce the immediate risks to victim-survivors and ensure services meet their longer-term needs.
The Victims and Prisoners Bill builds on the guidance in the Victims’ Code. It aims to support victims of crime by:
The Victims and Prisoners Bill would apply to victim-survivors of economic abuse if the abuse amounts to criminal conduct. This will be the case whether a survivor is seeking a criminal prosecution or not.
While the Bill applies to victim-survivors of economic abuse, we are calling for the Bill to do more to recognise economic abuse and support victim-survivors. The Victims and Prisoners Bill should:
SEA, together with other organisations in the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector, is calling for the following changes to be made to the Bill:
The key to victim-survivors’ immediate safety is economic advocacy. Economic advocacy considers victim-survivors’ economic situations in immediate and long-term safety planning. Examples of economic advocacy include:
Commissioners should fund domestic abuse services to work with local money/debt advisors and financial services. Together, these services can support survivors to build long-term economic security and independence.
An example of specialist economic advocacy is the Economic Justice Project. This pilot brought together local domestic abuse services and money and debt services.
Both types of service received training to support the economic needs of victim-survivors. This gave them the knowledge and skills to support women through economic advocacy. A Debt and Benefit Specialist role was vital for staff to develop confidence in this work. The role helped staff work alongside national and local advocates with expertise in both domestic abuse and money/debt advice.
The role also helped establish a closer working relationship between the domestic abuse services involved in the project and money/debt advisors. The project built a community infrastructure better able to respond to the needs of victim-survivors.
For victim-survivors to access justice, it is important that the police can:
Economic abuse can trap victim-survivors. It prevents them from escaping and rebuilding their lives after leaving the abuser. This is being compounded by the cost-of-living crisis.
Financial support for women at the point of leaving is vital to allow them to reach safety and begin to rebuild their lives and those of their children.
The Bill must include emergency funding to cover the costs of victims trying to leave an abuser and help cover the short-term costs of moving.
The Bill should provide legislative protection for all survivors, regardless of immigration status.
Eligibility for the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession should extend to all migrant survivors and not only to those on spouse or partner visas, as called for by Southall Black Sisters.
The Bill should also introduce a firewall between statutory services and immigration enforcement for survivors of VAWG, as called for by Latin American Women’s Rights Service.
In September 2023 we published an updated analysis of how economic abuse is reflected and responded to within successful prosecutions of the Controlling or Coercive Behaviour Offence.
By analysing 810 successfully prosecuted offences of controlling or coercive behaviour, Seen yet sidelined found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of cases reported in the press reference economic abuse.
Key findings and recommendations:
Read more about ‘Seen yet sidelined’
The Victims and Prisoners Bill is currently progressing through Parliament. We will continue our work to influence the Bill to create vital changes for victim-survivors.
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