The UK government has today [Wednesday 20 December 2023] launched a free interactive guide to help businesses spot and tackle domestic economic abuse.
Survivors of domestic abuse are at an increased risk around Christmas and, on average, it is reported that police forces in England and Wales receive over 100 calls relating to domestic abuse every hour, and around 95% of domestic abuse victims experience economic abuse.
During the Christmas period, the number of calls can rise by 25%.
The new tool, available on GOV.UK, aims to help call handlers at businesses and charities recognise abuse when speaking to customers and clients. Specialist charities such as Surviving Economic Abuse will be on standby to offer training to interested organisations.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Nigel Huddleston, said:
We’ve made economic abuse punishable by law, but it’s just as important that we provide the support needed to help victims escape dangerous situations.
That’s what today’s toolkit is about – the more organisations that use it, the faster we can help bring an end to abuse at home.
In summer this year, the government announced there would be a new interactive tool to help trained advisers in businesses and charities spot and tackle economic abuse. Since then, HMRC has worked closely with Surviving Economic Abuse holding workshops with charities and financial services firms to develop the tool and help get this right.
Based on a caller’s response, a trained call handler will navigate through the interactive tool to help identify potential victims. This will support the handler to decide what help the organisation might be able to offer the customer as well as provide details of relevant charities and support networks.
The launch coincides with £12 million of support for charities working with victims of domestic abuse, announced last month by the Chancellor at the Autumn Statement, helping to tackle abuse at home and help survivors rebuild their lives.
Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, CEO and founder of Surviving Economic Abuse, said:
Economic abuse, where an abuser controls money and the things money can buy, is a devastating form of domestic abuse. It makes it harder for victim-survivors and their children to leave and rebuild their lives safely. Reporting abuse can be intimidating, so it’s important that whoever a victim-survivor reaches out to for help – the police, a bank manager, supermarket cashier or call handler – they can give a supportive response.
We’re pleased the Treasury has launched this toolkit to support businesses to play their role in bringing economic abuse out from behind closed doors and supporting survivors to take safe steps to freedom. It’s vital that employers are properly trained in spotting the signs of economic abuse and confidently signposting to specialist support. The right response will be life changing.
Economic abuse, which Surviving Economic Abuse estimates one in five women in the UK have experienced in the last 12 months, is when an individual’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources are taken away by someone else in a coercive or controlling way.
Surviving Economic Abuse research found seven in ten front-line professionals reported the number of survivors of economic abuse coming to their organisation for help had increased since the start of the pandemic. By the end of the first Covid-19 lockdown, the charity found one in five women were planning to seek help around welfare benefits.
Tackling domestic abuse is a government priority and improving the response to economic abuse is integral to this. For the first time in history, economic abuse is now recognised in law as part of the statutory definition of domestic abuse included in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. This is in recognition of the devastating impact it can have on victims’ lives.
- If you would like to find out more about the interactive tool, please visit Public Sector Toolkits – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
- If you are worried you might be experiencing economic abuse or a family member or friend might be, visit the Surviving Economic Abuse website for further information on accessing support: https://survivingeconomicabuse.org/i-need-help/