Members of UK Finance and the Building Societies Association have committed to improving outcomes for customers in vulnerable circumstances, including providing further support to victims of financial abuse as per the Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce recommendations.
Over 2017 we have worked with representatives from charities, victim support groups and government departments, alongside UK Finance’s Financial Abuse Project Group and Consumer Advisory Group to develop a voluntary Financial Abuse Code of Practice, to bring increased awareness and better understanding of what financial abuse looks like for firms, colleagues, victims, potential victims and their families, and ensure more consistency in the support available for those who need it.
Financial abuse can take a variety of different forms within relationships, whether by partners, family members or carers and may manifest itself as financial control, dependency, exploitation or sabotage. The Financial Abuse Code of Practice considers financial abuse scenarios including those within the context of partner relationships, domestic abuse but also the older population as a particularly relevant demographic at risk.
The following organisations have publicly committed to implementing the voluntary Code over the next 12 months, raising awareness, training colleagues and introducing other initiatives to help victims regain more control over their finances. We expect more firms to commit over the coming year.
- Bank of Ireland UK
- Barclays Bank
- Charter Court Financial Services
- CYBG – Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank and digital banking service
- HSBC UK
- Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland
- Nationwide Building Society
- RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank NI
- Santander UK
- The Co-operative Bank and smile brands
- Virgin Money
The following organisations have participated in the creation of the code:
- Age UK
- Citizens Advice
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- HM Treasury
- Home Office
- Lloyds Bank Foundation
- Ministry of Justice
- Money Advice Service
- Money Advice Scotland
- Money Advice Trust
- Northern Ireland Consumer Council
- Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)
- Step Change Debt Charity
- Surviving Economic Abuse
- Women’s Aid
Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge:
“I am hugely proud that the original Refuge and Co-operative Bank research on economic abuse has provided the catalyst for this new Code of Practice.
“Over the last 12 months alone, Refuge staff have worked with over 1500 survivors of economic abuse. Women we supported described how abusers had complete control over household finances, forcing them to take out overdrafts and loans in their names which they then spent, or preventing them from working and earning money.
“The consequences of economic abuse are devastating. Over a fifth of Refuge service users said that as a result, they were unable to buy food for themselves and their children, and over a third were unable to buy non-food essentials, 27 per cent had problems with debt and over 10 per cent had been made homeless.
“Whilst there is much more to be done to prevent economic abuse and support survivors, the UK Finance Code of Practice is a huge step forward in recognising both the immense scale of economic abuse in the UK and the vital role the banking sector can play in protecting victims.”
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, director of Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA), the only UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of and transforming responses to economic abuse says: “We welcome the UK Finance Code of Practice, and the focus it gives to financial abuse. Through this code UK Finance has created a powerful ‘invitation to tell’, which combined with the training proposed, means that responses to customers should be more informed and consistent going forward. It is a great first step and we look forward to seeing advancement of knowledge and protocol within banks and financial institutions across the country.”
Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’ Aid said, “We welcome UK Finance’s commitment to introduce a Financial Abuse Code of Practice, developed in consultation with specialists like Women’s Aid and Surviving Economic Abuse, for the financial services sector. Economic abuse is a hidden form of domestic abuse which has a devastating and often long-lasting impact on the victim. Survivors have been left homeless and in debt as a result of this form of abuse. The financial services industry has a key role to play in tackling economic abuse and must make it their business.
“The Financial Abuse Code of Practice will help bring economic abuse out from the shadows and provide firms with the framework to improve how they respond to economic abuse and support their customers who are experiencing it. We urge firms to not only follow the code of practice but invest in specialist domestic abuse training for all staff so that they can effectively identify this sometimes insidious form of abuse and safely support survivors.”