Money Wellness
Image of a woman with her hand up to camera blocking abuse
category iconbenefits
category iconcost of living
calendar icon05 Sep 2023

Could you spot the signs of economic abuse?

ITV weather presenter Ruth Dodsworth has revealed that she was left ‘without a penny to her name’ because of the economic abuse she suffered during and after her marriage to her now ex-husband.

In an interview with The Guardian, Ruth Dodsworth said she no longer owns savings or a home, and her credit rating has plummeted since her ex-husband, Jonathan Wignall, took out credit cards and loans in her name.

Ruth now wants to help others so has decided to speak out about the long-lasting financial ramifications of her abusive marriage. She said: “He took every penny of my salary. If I asked for money for lunch at work, he would give me exactly £3 for a Tesco meal deal.

“Work colleagues asked me for lunch, and I’d have to make excuses, so the isolation increased. I never saw mail or bills.”

She went on to say that, at the time, she was completely unaware that economic abuse was a factor of coercive control, let alone that the consequences would impact the rest of her life.

Ruth’s experiences with economic abuse have featured in a report Seen Sidelined by charity, Surviving Economic Abuse.

 

What’s economic abuse? 

Economic abuse is a form of domestic abuse and a way of having power over you. It can involve your partner controlling your financial affairs and limiting your access to money, leaving you isolated and feeling trapped.

Economic abuse is legally recognised as a form of domestic abuse under the Domestic Abuse Act.

It affects people from all walks of life, with one in four women and one in six men being subjected to it in their lifetime.

Could you spot economic abuse?

Some of the ways you could be economically abused include:

  • Preventing you from being in education or employment
  • Limiting your working hours
  • Taking your wages
  • Refusing to let you claim benefits
  • Taking your children’s savings or birthday money
  • Taking out credit cards, loans, mortgages in your name
  • Refusing to let you have access to a bank account

What help is available?

If you’ve left a relationship where you were economically abused, you might be struggling financially and need some help. You can contact the Financial Support Helpline on 0808 196 8845, who can provide specialist help.

There are a number of other charities and organisations that can help access grants and provide support.

As a starting point it’s worth speaking to charities, such as:

Government help

The government launched a pilot scheme in March offering one-off payments to help people fleeing abusive relationships. People who apply will be given either £250 or £500 (if they have children) from the Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan.

Financial and charity grants

Some banks and financial organisations also have hardship funds available for customers in financial difficulty or leaving relationships due to abuse. E.g., TSB has a ‘Emergency Flee Fund’ that offers support payments of £50 to £500 to help people fleeing abusive relationships with the cost of travel, clothing, and toiletries.

You can search a full list of charity grants available at the Turn2Us website - Turn2us Grants Search

Benefits

You should also check to see what benefits you’re entitled to. If you’re out of work or on a low income, you’ll be able to claim universal credit and there may be several other benefits available to you depending on your circumstances.

If you’re claiming certain benefits, such as universal credit, you’ll also be entitled to help from the cost of living payments – paid in three one-off instalments of £301, £300 and £299, they’re designed to help with rising food and utility bills.

Your local council can help with essential costs too through the Household Support Fund, which offers money towards energy and water bills, food, and essential items. Each council decides how to spend their fund, so whether you get money paid into your account or vouchers will depend on your council’s policy. Find out more at www.gov.uk

You could also be entitled to a reduction on you council tax. What you get depends again on where you live and your circumstances. Find out what’s available at Apply for Council Tax Reduction - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

What’s coercive debt and how can we help?

Many people find that when they flee an abusive relationship, they’re left with debt fraudulently taken out in their name or were coerced into taking on credit.

There are a number of solutions available to you if you’re carrying debts from an abusive relationship. The right one will depend on your circumstances so it’s important to get free debt help before taking action.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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