Money Wellness
Picture of women stood together under the header of International Women's Day
category icondebts
category iconMoney Wellness
calendar icon06 Mar 2023

We commit to providing dedicated female-led advice to survivors of abusive relationships

 

To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, the free debt advice and ongoing support service Money Wellness has committed to delivering female-led advice to women who have been left in financial difficulties as a result of coercive or abusive relationships. It is also using the initiative to call for creditors to come together to provide a clear framework for debt write off in cases where financial coercion and abuse can be demonstrated.

 

Economic abuse is a form of coercive control and involves intimidating, isolating and controlling a partner by restricting their access to financial resources, education or employment. It is almost always perpetrated by a man against a woman. According to a National Crime survey, financial abuse is reported in 99% of domestic-abuse cases. More than 1.5m cases of domestic abuse were reported to police in England and Wales in the year ending March 2022.

 

There are lots of different ways someone can be financially abusive towards a partner, including:

  • building up debt on shared accounts or joint credit cards
  • taking out financial products, such as mortgages or loans, in the victim’s name without their knowledge
  • controlling how household finances are spent
  • withholding child support payments
  • stopping someone being financially independent or earning their own money

Some forms of financial abuse may seem like a display of affection at first, with the perpetrator offering to take control of the household finances to take the pressure off the victim. However, the perpetrator’s real motive is to make the victim financially dependent on them.

 

Financial coercion was officially recognised as abuse in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. And financial abuse post-separation is set to be officially recognised from spring 2023.

 

Sebrina McCullough, Head of External Relations at Money Wellness said: “Often when we think of abusive relationships, we think of physical or emotional harm, but abusive behaviour comes in many different forms. Financial or economic abuse can be subtle and develop gradually but can have a devastating long-term effect on each survivor, not just limiting their financial wellbeing but also impacting on social inclusion, housing security and physical and mental health. It can affect women from all social backgrounds and walks of life - no one is exempt.

 

“Women often feel trapped in the relationship as they don’t see a financial way of escaping and feel dependent on their abusive partner. Often the women who reach out to us for help have been stuck in an emotionally abusive cycle for a long time and their confidence is at an all-time low. We have found that these women feel more confident discussing their problems with another female, particularly when they’re at their most vulnerable, and so we have committed to ensuring that victims have immediate access to specially trained female advisers. Our female team can help navigate the range of solutions available for coercive debt to find the one that best suits each woman’s individual circumstances. We can also work with survivors to review and maximise their benefits or grant options, help with bailiffs, and put them in touch with partnership organisations - such as Refuge – for extra support. In addition, we have translators on hand to help women who don’t speak English as a first language and are therefore at even greater risk of isolation and more likely to struggle to access the help that’s available.’

There are several debt solutions available to the victims of financial abuse including free debt management plans, individual voluntary arrangements, debt relief orders (DROs), and bankruptcy. In some cases, we may ask lenders to write off debt completely.

 

McCullough adds: “It’s not always straightforward to arrange for a lender to write off debt that is owed to them, especially if the victim has assets, such as property in their name. Each lender needs to be approached and while some may be sympathetic to the situation, others may request evidence that there is no hope of the debt ever being repaid. It’s not an exact science and there is no legal obligation for the lender to write off any debt, even if it can be demonstrated that the debtor has been a victim of abuse. We believe that with the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act last year and with International Women’s Day fast approaching, now is the right time for the industry to work together to create a clear framework to provide clarity and consistency to help vulnerable victims when it comes to applying for debt write off.”

 

The Money Wellness service, which has helped more than 700,000 people, is one of only three organisations commissioned by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) to deliver free debt advice nationally and one of only two appointed to administer DROs.

 

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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