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What are the signs of financial abuse and where can you go for help?

Rising bills: Cost of living problems give abusers an excuse to withhold money, warns an expert

Rising household bills could lead to an increase in financial abuse and make life worse for victims, warn legal and charity experts.

Financial abuse is a coercive tactic where money is used to control a partner, and women are more likely than men to be victims but anyone can be affected.

The number of online searches for ‘financial abuse signs’ rose 13 per cent in the year to September, according to analysis of Google data by law firm Rayden Solicitors.

And this trend has accelerated of late, with a 30 per cent rise in searches for this information in the year to November.

Rayden also reports a 77 per cent increase in visits to its own web page on recognising financial abuse over the past two years, then an alarming 19 per jump in the past month alone.

Are you or someone you know suffering financial abuse? See below for how to spot the warning signs and where you can turn for help.

‘We are extremely concerned for victims-survivors of economic abuse in the coming months,’ says Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, chief executive and founder of Surviving Economic Abuse.

‘We know from our financial support line that 67 per cent of victim-survivors of domestic abuse are already in a negative budget or have less than £100 surplus at the end of each month, and that average debts are six times higher than in 2020.

‘The cost of living presents abusers with an excuse to withhold economic resources and the repercussions of restricting finances will be greater as money doesn’t travel as far. 

 Financial abuse, put simply, can affect a person’s ability to lead an independent life. They might be unable to do anything without their partner’s input

 William Ham, Rayden Solicitors

‘Victims will be forced to spend more time at home in order to reduce spending, where there is a greater chance of harm.’

Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of SafeLives, says: ‘The cost of living crisis is rapidly becoming an emergency for victims of domestic abuse, with many facing the choice between living in an unsafe home or facing financial destitution and homelessness.

‘With support services also feeling increased pressures, opportunities to get support are increasingly limited, and it can be hard for someone experiencing domestic abuse to reach out.

‘It’s vital during this worrying time that family and friends reach in. If you’re concerned about someone, be led by what they think is safe and start conversations gently, expressing your concern.

‘It’s common to feel apprehensive that you might say something wrong, but simply listening and reassuring someone can break the silence around their situation. Let them know you believe them, and that any abuse is never their fault.’

William Ham, legal director at Rayden Solicitors, says he has noticed an increase in people suffering from financial abuse, and thinks it is predominantly due to the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act in 2021, which specifically includes economic abuse.

‘Financial abuse needs to be viewed as part of broader controlling and coercive behaviour,’ he says. 

‘Financial abuse, put simply, can affect a person’s ability to lead an independent life. They might be unable to do anything without their partner’s input, such as obtaining goods and services.’ 

Control: Signs of financial abuse can include regularly opening your bank statements, being in charge of all of your finances and spending money behind your back (stock image)

Control: Signs of financial abuse can include regularly opening your bank statements, being in charge of all of your finances and spending money behind your back (stock image)

How to spot signs of financial abuse

Situations where finances are being controlled most often occur between romantic partners, but can also involve family members, friends and carers, warns Rayden Solicitors.

Shefali Maher, a solicitor at Rayden with extensive experience of domestic abuse cases, has compiled the following list of signs of financial abuse.

She says you may be suffering this form of coercion if you have a partner who:

– Tells you that they are better with money than you are and/or that you are no good with money

– Regularly opens your bank statements

– Forbids you from discussing your financial arrangements outside of your relationship so that your friends and family are in the dark about the financial control they are exerting over you

– Is in charge of all the finances leaving you with little or no control over finances

cost of living

– Takes advantage of your generosity

– Takes loans out in your name and/or uses your credit or debit card without asking

– Has assets in their own name but insists that all of your assets are joint

– Spends money behind your back and/or hides their debts from you

– Controls all of the credit cards that you both have between you

– Does not allow you to have any money of your own outside of an allowance or spend limit. This is often a deliberate tactic used by the controlling party to leave a victim with two very difficult choices – leave the abuser and have no money or stay and continue to live with the abuse.

– Tells you that you are not entitled to anything

– Tells you not to see a solicitor or not to trust your solicitor

– Keeps you in the dark about the joint finances

– Takes your income or benefit payments or does not allow these payments to be made to your individual bank account

– Puts bills in your name but does not contribute to them

– Does not contribute to children’s expenses

– Regularly gets upset with you over your spending and/or asks to see receipts when you have spent money

– Takes important financial decisions without you

– Controls whether you work or whether you can progress in your career or what you do for work. Your partner may even go so far as to harass you at work so that you are fired or have no choice but to give up work.

Find out how to spot the signs a friend or family member is suffering financial abuse here.

Someone taking out credit cards or loans in your name can also be a sign of financial abuse

Someone taking out credit cards or loans in your name can also be a sign of financial abuse

Where can you go for help?

If you are in immediate danger, contact the police on 999.

If you are not in immediate danger but are concerned about your safety, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline is on 0808 2000 247 and open 24 hours a day.

Surviving Economic Abuse’s financial support line, run in partnership with Money Advice Plus, offers specialist advice to people experiencing domestic abuse who are in financial difficulty. SEA says the advice may help you to regain control of your finances.

Women’s Aid has help and advice here, including a live chat service for confidential expert advice and support.

It runs a Rail to Refuge scheme, a joint initiative with rail companies where operators cover the cost of train tickets for women, men and children escaping domestic abuse travelling to refuge accommodation.

You can find out how to access it here, and the Rail Delivery group explains more here.

Raydens stresses that if you are in immediate danger you should contact the police, but adds: ‘Speaking to a solicitor early on will help protect your finances and gain expert advice.

‘If you or someone you know is suffering from financial abuse, you can take action. If you have a joint account or shared access to money, you can ask the bank to freeze the account.

‘If your partner knows your banking passwords or pin numbers, consider changing them if it’s safe to do so.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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