Changes needed to help victim-survivors of economic and financial abuse

Changes are needed to help victim-survivors of domestic abuse to regain control of their finances.

In a new report released today, From Control to Financial Freedom, UK Finance explores some of the obstacles experienced by victim-survivors when regaining their financial independence.

Economic abuse occurs when the abuser restricts, exploits and sabotages their victim’s resources, such as mobile phones and transportation to maintain power and control. 

Financial abuse is a subset of economic abuse and includes the restriction, exploitation and sabotage of financial resources, for example by controlling the victim’s income, or coercing them to take out a credit card or a personal loan. Economic, including financial abuse, is recognised under the Domestic Abuse Act (2021) following successful campaigning by UK Finance, Surviving Economic Abuse and other stakeholders. 

Financial services firms are committed to supporting victim-survivors, and many are signed up to the 2021 Financial Abuse Code and have a range of support to meet the needs of each person who needs help.  However, we know that there is still more to be done and the report identifies three key issues:

  • Debt accrued as a result of controlling or coercive behaviour;
  • Separation of joint financial services products; and 
  • Receipt of payments which are accompanied by abusive payment references.   

The report sets out a number of recommendations, including: 

1. Enhanced, victim-led prevention of economic and financial abuse. 

  • Development of an option to “block” payment references so customers can decide whether they see this information from a payer, as this can be a method for abusers to send messages to their victims. 
  • Sharing best practice across Home Office, financial services and the third sector to encourage victim-survivors to seek help.

2. An “ecosystem” response to deliver support for victim-survivors

  • Development of a “Tell Us Once” service for victim-survivors to disclose abuse to multiple organisations to prevent them having to repeat themselves, potentially putting them in danger.
  • A commitment across financial services to accept the Economic Abuse Evidence Form, an information-sharing tool to allow qualified money / debt advisors to tell an organisation that someone has experienced economic abuse.
  • A review of how coerced debt is reflected on credit files.

3. Effective support to give victim-survivors confidence to pursue a fair legal separation of their financial affairs. 

  • The Home Office and Ministry of Justice should ensure all victim-survivors can access professional legal advice, with clear standardised information on how to access it.
  • Court Orders should clearly state that the Court can intervene where one party fails to comply with the Order or deliberately obstructs the process to continue the cycle of abuse.

4. Effective reporting and criminal prosecution delivering economic justice to victim-survivors and disincentivising future abuse

  • The Home Office and the Ministry of Justice should develop a quick pathway for economic abuse prosecutions and explore how the financial services industry can support prosecutions through the provision of evidence.

5. Policy change to better support victim-survivors. 

  • The offence of Controlling or Coercive Behaviour[1] should be reviewed to prevent the abuser keeping the proceeds of their crime.
  • The Consumer Credit Act (1974) should be reformed to provide guidance on how to split joint unsecured debt where there is no consumer agreement or Court Order.
  • Mortgage lenders should review their lending to allow a temporary and agreed adjustment when a victim-survivor is looking to become the sole borrower on a joint mortgage.

Although the report highlights some of the challenges with abuse cases, it is important to remember that if you are suffering from economic or financial abuse, help is available from your finance provider. More information can be found in UK Finance and Surviving Economic Abuse’s It’s Your Money leaflet, and the Surviving Economic Abuse Banking Support Directory.

Fiona Turner, Head of Vulnerability, Financial Inclusion and Capability at UK Finance, said:

Economic and financial abuse are horrendous acts, with consequences that can be life-changing, life-threatening and long-lasting. Financial services firms are committed to supporting victim-survivors and already have a wide range of support available. We know that there can be complexities in helping victims regain control of their finances, and the recommendations in this report should help unravel some of these issues. We are committed to playing our part to deliver effective collaboration and action across government, regulators and the private sectors which helps empower victim-survivors to reach their financial goals and achieve financial freedom.

Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO and Founder of Surviving Economic Abuse said:

A staggering 5.5 million victim-survivors experienced economic abuse in the last year alone, and the cost-of-living crisis is only increasing abusers’ opportunities for control. Coordinated action is needed to make sure victim-survivors get support, opportunities for control through financial products are closed down and perpetrators are held to account.

This important report sheds light on some of the obstacles faced by victim-survivors when trying to separate their finances from an abuser, often long after they’ve fled. Financial ties like joint mortgages or child maintenance payments sent with abusive messages, create an invisible chain to the abuser, preventing them from moving on and safely rebuilding their lives.

We look forward to working with UK Finance, the government, financial services firms and the regulator to implement the learnings in this report and, together, stopping economic abuse forever.

Area of expertise:

Notes to editor

For more information please call the UK Finance press office on 020 7416 6750 or email 

Please see details of the 2021 Financial Abuse Code in the link