FINANCIAL ABUSE

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This weeks list comes as part of a paid partnership with SafeLives.org  & Natwest who are working to raise awareness of financial abuse. Domestic abuse can take many shapes, one that is often overlooked is financial abuse. It occurs as frequently as, and often comes hand in hand with, emotion and physical abuse. Here Kim Chambers, a Financial Abuse Specialist working in NatWest’s customer protection team shares insight into how this type of abuse manifests, signs of what to look out for and where to seek help for either yourself or a loved one who may be a victim:

  • Financial abuse is insidious, and it is invisible.

  • It can take many forms. It might be financial control, exploitation or sabotage. 

  • It can happen in a range of different relationships with partners, family members or carers.

  • Financial abuse could happen to anyone. One in five women and one in seven men in the UK have experienced financial abuse from a current or former partner. Over one third of victims didn’t tell anyone at the time.

  • There is no normal time for it to affect someone. I’ve seen some customers who had been married for years before it started, and others who are in a new relationship. Some have been putting up with it for years, but have finally decided that enough is enough.  

  • It doesn’t matter if you earn six figures, or nothing at all. I have had customers who earn thousands, but who are not allowed to access their own money, or even have a card to their account. Or perhaps they were not allowed by a partner to receive benefits. 

  • It doesn’t matter how educated you are, or what your job is. One person I spoke to was a very high powered lawyer who told me that she never thought that she would stand for her partner’s behaviour. “I am not a stupid woman,” she said. “This could happen to anybody”.

  • There is no ‘type’ for people who are affected. Every case is different. Every case is just as serious and challenging, and every customer is important. 

  • Often, talking to someone about what’s going on is the first and most important step. That could be to friends, family, or colleagues. 

  • Or expert resources, such as organisations like SafeLives or Surviving Economic Abuse.

  • They can help you understand next steps, and how you can access support and more information.

  • Your bank can also help you. I am specially trained to support customers who have been affected by financial abuse, and so are many of my colleagues.

  • We can tailor solutions to individual circumstances and work with you to make your banking safe and secure, and we can close joint accounts without you having to talk to the other person.

  • We can work with you to make sure that only you have access to your online and telephone banking.

  • In some cases, we can help you open an account if you’ve had to leave your home suddenly, with little identification.

  • The customer’s safety is paramount and always on my mind. Often financial abuse is present where there is also physical abuse, and if the partner found out someone was planning to leave then it could be dangerous. 

  • It is important that they contact me on their on terms – at a time and a place that is safe for them. I can also make sure mail about your accounts can be sent to a secure location or help customers access their accounts online – with passwords that only they know. 

  • I am often thinking of my customers, and it’s important that we have regular check ins, so they can keep me up to date with their situation.

  • Sometimes people don’t understand what my job is. 

  • They might know that I have worked for NatWest for 20 years, and they know that I speak to customers every day, but they sometimes don’t know what financial abuse is. Or what it might look like.

  • They don’t know that it could involve someone:

    • Stopping you from having the money you need to buy food, clothes or other essentials, or to pay the bills.

    • dictating how you must spend money

    • stopping you from having the money you needed to.

    • hiding money so you couldn’t find it

    • insisting you give them receipts, or change from any purchases.

    • keeping important financial information from you, such as mortgage or rent information.

    • stopping you from having a job or going to work, or made it difficult for you to do so.

    • forcing you to get a credit card or loan.

    • taking out a credit card or loan in your name

    • Buying something on your credit card without your knowledge or consent.

    • Spending their money however they wanted while your money was used for essentials like rent and bills.

    • building up debt in your name.

    • forcing you to give them savings or wages.

  • Then when I explain the kinds of situations that have happened to people, they begin to realise just how devastating financial abuse can be.

  • How much it could impact someone’s life, and how long term the implications could be for someone, even years after they have left the relationship.

  • One customer I worked with has had to leave her home, and another is still fighting in the courts to get child support. It doesn’t end for them when they leave.

  • How important it is that they listen to their friends and family if they come to them with concerns.

  • How they might be able to spot the signs of  financial abuse in someone they know.

  • Because maybe they’re unexpectedly and frequently using money as a reason for cancelling plans. 

  • Or perhaps a loved one borrows money out of character and is elusive about why.

  • Maybe you’re aware of problems with joint finances – perhaps one person taking complete charge of them.

  • It could be spotting that they’ve developed some unusual shopping behaviours – maybe obsessively asking for receipts for every purchase and becoming anxious when this isn’t possible. 

  • Or hiding purchases from their partner or asking permission before buying anything.

  • It could be they’re expressing a desire to work but their partner not supporting them to do so.

  • Or maybe they just quit a job they loved, with no real explanation.

  • Perhaps they have recently moved away from close family and say they’re ‘not allowed’ to visit more often.

  • Because it is so important that we try and point people towards the resources that can help them.

  • And that includes their bank. It may be the last thing they think of doing, or they may think that it might make it worse, but there are so many ways that we can support them.

  • And it’s not just me, and my team. Colleagues across the bank have been trained by SafeLives in understanding financial abuse and how that might affect someone. NatWest signed up to the financial abuse code of practice and the whole bank takes its responsibilities very seriously.

  • I hope one day that no one will call me, and that financial abuse never happens to anyone again.

  • But until that happens, I am going to continue to support customers the best I can, every day to ensure that they can start rebuilding their financial life again.

** GETTING SUPPORT: For further information on how NatWest can help, please visit https://personal.natwest.com/personal/life-moments/financial-abuse.html.

If you want to know more about the signs and impact of economic abuse go to  SafeLives.org.uk and Surviving Economic Abuse.

If someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, encourage them to contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline run by Women’s Aid and Refuge on 0808 2000 247. If they are in immediate danger, they should call the police on 999.**

 

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