Economic abuse is to be recognised as a form of domestic abuse

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The draft Domestic Abuse Bill has been published today and, for the first time, it recognises economic abuse as being a form of domestic abuse. But what exactly is economic abuse?

Economic abuse – what is it?

You may have heard of the term ‘financial abuse’ but may not have heard of economic abuse. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not really the same. Financial abuse is more directly targeted at things like bank accounts. Financial abuse could involve:

  • Running up debts on a joint account
  • Taking out loans in a partner’s name or forging their signature on agreements
  • Emptying a joint bank account.

According to the charity ‘Surviving Economic Abuse’, economic abuse is about controlling access to wider economic resources. What that means is that the abusive partner might make it difficult for the other partner to work, eat or go about their daily lives, by controlling access to certain things they need. This could involve:

  • Stopping a partner from having access to fuel for their car
  • Stopping a partner from having access to food
  • Destroying ID documents which mean the partner can’t open or access financial accounts
  • Stopping someone from being able to buy or have access to clothing they need.

Although all forms of domestic abuse can be carried out against men as well as women, the vast majority of victims of domestic abuse are women. This also applies to financial and economic abuse.

What help is available?

If you think you’re the victim of economic or financial abuse, contact one of these charities for free help.

Citizens Advice: They can give you help and advice with your finances, your rights to your home and benefits. Contact Citizens Advice in England and WalesCitizens Advice in Scotland or Citizens Advice in Northern Ireland.

Refuge is a national charity helping victims of domestic abuse and campaigning to end it. It has a 24-hour telephone helpline number of 0808 2000 247.

Women’s Aid is a charity working to end domestic violence. It uses the same telephone number as Refuge — 0808 2000 247.

Women’s Aid has published A Survivor’s Handbook, which you can download.

SAVVY TIP: The charity Surviving Economic Abuse has been instrumental in getting economic abuse included in the Domestic Abuse Bill. It doesn’t give advice, but it does have some resources on its website. It’s also worked (with other charities) with banks to develop a voluntary code of conduct. It will be introduced in the next 12 months. I think the code is a good first step, but doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.

Is the domestic abuse bill enough?

It’s a really significant step forward that economic abuse will be recognised as a form of domestic abuse. However, including economic abuse in the domestic violence bill isn’t enough. There are two major changes that need to happen alongside the introduction of the domestic abuse bill:

  • Companies and organisations, but especially financial companies, need to do more to help victims of financial and economic abuse. Because financial and economic abuse are so interlinked, financial companies can make the situation worse if they don’t have the right procedures in place.
  • The government needs to fund women’s refuges and the legal system much better if those guilty of economic abuse are to be brought to justice. Women’s Refuges are turning away 400 women and children a week because they don’t have the money and capacity to help them. That’s a shocking and shameful statistic.

Related articles:

SavvyWoman Podcast: Economic abuse – what banks need to do

Over half of adults don’t know who’s responsible for debts on joint accounts

What your bank should do if you have a joint account and split up – and why it may not

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