David Postings speech - Project Safeguard

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Good morning, everyone, thank you for coming. I am David Postings, Chief Executive of UK Finance. 

I should like to begin by thanking our associate members TLT and Simmons and Simmons, who provided legal expertise to the Safeguard Project.  We have benefited greatly from their extensive expertise on family, economic crime and regulatory law and could not have produced this report without them. I should also like to thank Surviving Economic Abuse, and Refuge for their help in launching our new report ‘From Control to Financial Freedom’. 

The people in this room know better than most that economic and financial abuse devastates lives. 

The latest government figures show that over 2.4 million adults suffered this type of abuse in the year ending March 2022. Surviving Economic Abuse found that over 5 million women have experienced economic abuse in the past 12 months. 

Of these women, 2.5 million had access to their bank accounts restricted, and 2.1 million had credit taken out in their name or had their credit rating deliberately destroyed.

Behind these numbers is a heartbreaking story. During this project we have heard stories from countless brave victim-survivors, who have kindly shared their experience.

One woman was threatened by her abuser with violence and sexual assault if she did not take out a loan and send that money to them.

But not all victim-survivors are women. One man had his passport and money withheld by his partner, so he could not escape the abuse he was facing. 

I know someone who suffered serious violence from her partner and eventually she summoned the courage to go to the police. He was jailed for 5 years. She then spent years repaying the various debts he had run up in her name without her knowledge. She is on a very low income and the hardship that caused was incalculable. She is a strong person but it took a huge toll on her and her young child.

There are millions more people like these in the UK all with a similar tragic story.

The financial services industry recognises the devastating impact of abuse on customers, and I am proud of the support we provide – from safe spaces in branches, to flee funds and other solutions that help victim-survivors regain financial independence. 

As an industry, we are committed to playing our part. The internationally recognised Financial Abuse Code, launched by UK Finance in 2018, and signed up to by 29 firms and 39 brands, demonstrates this commitment.

Our members have also been working with specialist domestic and economic abuse charities to develop an understanding of the challenges that victim-survivors face. We have shared best practice, driven consistency and improved outcomes for those impacted by abuse.

Despite this victim-survivors need more help. There continues to be barriers for them when trying to regain control of their finances due to complexities in the system.

Because of this, our report focused on setting out important, survivor-centered recommendations, to encourage cross-sector collaboration, tear down these barriers, and strengthen the fight against economic and financial abuse.

For example, we know that abusers send highly unpleasant messages to their victims by sending a string of one penny payments with messages in the payment reference, so it is important that victim-survivors are able to avoid seeing these. 

Creating a “Tell Us Once” service, so that victim-survivors do not need to tell their story to multiple firms and support agencies, providing free access to professional legal advice, and speeding up economic crime prosecutions are some of our other recommendations that can be a game changer. 

Here at UK Finance our priority is to help to build a better society. This work can do that. 

We hope that the changes we have outlined can make the process for victim-survivors simpler. We must all share a common goal, to make things better for anyone suffering economic or financial abuse and help them get the justice they deserve.  

I hope that through collective action, victim-survivors will be empowered to go from control to financial freedom.

Thank you.

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