Our values and ethics have always been more than words on paper. They underpin how we run our business. We remain the only UK bank to have a customer-led Ethical Policy and we have a proud history of campaigning on issues our customers care about.
In 2015, we launched our joint ‘My money, my life’ campaign with national domestic abuse charity, Refuge, and reported the scale of financial abuse for the very first time.
Our work with Refuge led to the launch of an industry-wide Financial Abuse Code of Practice in 2018, which aims to provide survivors of economic abuse with better and more consistent support from across the banking and financial sector. To date, 19 banks and building societies have signed up to the initiative. Together, we’ve made a real difference, but we still have more work to do.
We developed a five-point plan of action on economic abuse with Refuge. We recommended that:
1. Banks and other financial services institutions should build on the support they offer to survivors of economic abuse.
2. Credit reference agencies should create a ‘credit rating repair’ system for survivors whose credit rating has been impacted by economic abuse.
3. The Government should create a fund for survivors, to assist them with the costs of leaving an abuser, and accessing a safe place to stay.
4. The Government should reform welfare benefits systems for survivors, by making it easier for them to keep their money separate from their abuser’s, and offering advance payments for those fleeing abusers, paid as grants rather than loans.
5. Banks, other financial services institutions and specialist domestic abuse organisations should conduct a review of how changing technology in banking is impacting survivors of economic abuse, and produce recommendations for change.
This has led to positive action, helping to increase support available for survivors of financial and economic abuse, and helping to prevent it. We’re working with the banking industry and credit reference agencies, to get them more involved in supporting survivors.
In 2020, we once again partnered with Refuge, this time to run research into the extent, and how the coronavirus pandemic affected the nature of economic abuse.
We shared the results, raised awareness and developed a plan of action in our ‘Know Economic Abuse’ campaign.
There have been various financial shocks in recent years, including the coronavirus pandemic and the cost of living crisis. Financial stress reportedly leads to higher rates of abuse, and can make it more difficult for survivors to leave the abusive situation, as they may feel less able to support themselves on their own.
We found that:
The way people bank is changing, meaning more people are accessing digital banking than ever before.
Abusers (or perpetrators) can use this to their advantage, having access to more tools than ever for harassing, observing and controlling others. One in three women have experienced these behaviours, which is known as tech abuse. It can range from unwanted contact through phones and social media, to methods of control via smart home devices.
Banks have a duty to help protect their customers from these dangers. We are aware that technology can be a force for good in supporting survivors to escape abuse, so we wanted to do more research. Of the survivors who took part in our research:
We know it might not be possible, or safe, for you to contact us. You can fill in our economic abuse online form to let us know a safe time for us to get in touch with you instead, if that works better for you. Please be aware that the contact form will show in your browser history.
If you're worried someone is monitoring your phone, use a safer device, like another phone from a trusted friend, family, or a neighbour, to contact Refuge's 24h National Domestic Abuse Helpline (Freephone) on 0808 2000 247.
It's a good idea to consider who might be able to access things like your emails by checking where your account is logged in. You can find more information about this at the Refuge Tech Safety website.
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