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The Co-operative Bank and Refuge comment on why continuing to focus on the issue of Financial Abuse is so important a year on from the launch of the industry wide Financial Abuse Code of Practice

16 October 2019

  • The Co-operative Bank's Lesley McPherson reflects on the work The Bank has done to enhance its support for customers who are victims of Financial Abuse
  • Refuge's Sandra Horley CBE comments on the increased focus on Domestic Abuse and Financial Abuse as a recognised form of abuse
  • Co-operative Bank and Refuge spokespeople are available to discuss the issue of Financial Abuse
  • The Co-operative Bank works with Refuge as one of The Bank’s key charity partners

Financial Abuse (also referred to as 'economic abuse') is a huge issue that impacts millions of people each year.

Figures show that last year, over a third (35 per cent) of the survivors supported by Refuge disclosed that they had been economically abused. In many cases, survivors experienced other forms of abuse alongside economic abuse, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Economic abuse can take a variety of forms and have significant and long-term impacts.

For example, of the women Refuge supported last year who disclosed that they had experienced domestic abuse, half said that their partner controlled all of the household finances. Hundreds of women reported that they have been forced into taking out debt in their own names, which was controlled and spent by the perpetrator.

The consequences of economic abuse can be devastating. 10 per cent of the women who had experienced economic abuse who were supported by Refuge, had been made homeless as a consequence. 20 per cent said that they had been unable to buy food for themselves or their children as a result of the abuse. Over a quarter said that they have been forced into debt.

A year on since the launch of the Financial Abuse Code of Practice, The Co-operative Bank and Refuge comment on the changes that have been brought about to better support victims of financial abuse and the other significant steps that are being taken to continue to help those who are affected by this form of domestic abuse.

Co-operative Bank spokesperson Lesley McPherson comments: "During the 12 month implementation period we have made positive changes to ensure that all vulnerable customers and victims of financial abuse are transferred to our dedicated Vulnerable Customer team who are there to support and help our customers most in need.

The changes The Co-operative Bank has made to its approach to vulnerable customers and victims of Financial Abuse over the last 12 months are detailed below:

  • Financial Abuse guidelines – We have provided specific guidance for colleagues outlining signs to look out for which may indicate financial abuse and things to consider when supporting customers.
  • Explicit consent – When a customer lets us know that they are vulnerable and/or a victim of financial abuse or we have identified that they are, we will seek out any other accounts they might hold with us across all of our brands. This ensures they will only have to tell us once that they are vulnerable and we will update our records to show this on all of their accounts with us.
  • Designated Helpline – Our colleagues can transfer the customer to a helpline where they can discuss their situation further if they would like more support. If the customer doesn't wish to speak to the team at that moment, the colleague can still notify the specialist so they can review whether any further action to support the customer may be needed.

Lesley McPherson continued: "We have made some positive changes and we will continue to review and work closely with our charity partner Refuge to ensure that we're doing as much as we can to help our customers who are looking for support when they encounter in extremely difficult situations. The creation of the code of practice and the delivery of that is a key milestone, and now that we have helped raise awareness of this issue, we'll continue to look at how we could do things better for our customers."

The Co-operative Bank and Refuge are still immensely proud that our joint campaign with Refuge – My Money, My Life – back in December 2015, was instrumental in bringing the financial services industry together to create a code to better support victims of financial abuse.

The first anniversary of the Financial Abuse Code of Practice comes quickly after the long awaited Domestic Abuse Bill finally had its second reading in Parliament last week (Wednesday 2 October 2019). In the Domestic Abuse Bill – Financial / Economic Abuse is recognised as a form of Domestic Abuse for the first time."

Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge said: "Refuge is proud to work with The Co-operative Bank on what has been an incredibly powerful and important initiative. Economic abuse is real. One in five adults have experienced economic abuse from a current or former partner, and the Financial Abuse Code of Practice is an important step towards taking real action to address economic abuse. The Code helps the finance industry to spot the signs of financial abuse and to support their customers who are experiencing it.

"Refuge supports more than 6,500 survivors of domestic abuse on any given day. Of the many thousands of women Refuge supported last year who disclosed that they had experienced domestic abuse, half said that their partner controlled all of the household finances. Hundreds of women reported that they have been forced into taking out debt in their own name, which was controlled and spent by their perpetrator."

"Last year alone, over a third of the survivors supported by Refuge disclosed that they had been economically abused. In many cases they experienced other forms of abuse as well, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

"The consequences of economic abuse can be devastating. 10 per cent of the women who had experienced economic abuse, and were supported by Refuge, had been made homeless as a consequence. 20 per cent said that they had been unable to buy food for themselves or their children as a result of the abuse. Over a quarter said that they have been forced into debt.

"One year on from the launch of the Code, 18 major banks have signed up to the initiative. This is a tremendous achievement and we are incredibly grateful to The Co-operative Bank for its leadership."

-- ENDS --

Media Enquiries:
The Co-operative Bank
Nicki Parry
Tel: 0161 201 1590 Email: nicki.parry@co-operativebank.co.uk

About The Co-operative Bank
The Co-operative Bank plc provides a full range of banking products and services to retail and SME (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) customers and is committed to values and ethics in line with the principles of the co-operative movement.
The Co-operative Bank is the only high street bank with a customer-led ethical policy which gives customers a say in how their money is used. Launched in 1992, the Policy has been updated on five occasions, with new commitments added in January 2015 to cover how the Bank operates its business, products and services, workplace and culture, relationships with suppliers and other stakeholders and campaigning.

About Refuge
Refuge is the largest specialist provider of gender-based violence services in the country supporting over 6,500 women and children on any given day. Refuge opened the world’s first refuge in 1971 in Chiswick, and 47 years later, provides: a national network of 46 refuges, community outreach programmes, child support services, and acts as independent advocates for those experiencing domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence. We also run specialist services for survivors of modern slavery, 'honour'-based violence, and female genital mutilation. In partnership with Women’s Aid, Refuge provides the National Domestic Violence Helpline which receives hundreds of calls a day.
www.refuge.org.uk Twitter: @RefugeCharity

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