Government launches new initiative to tackle economic abuse

One victim of economic abuse told us she had "almost nothing left every month". Credit: ITV News

The government has announced a new initiative today to tackle economic abuse.

During a visit to a women's centre in West London, Treasury minister Victoria Atkins said businesses and charities are set to benefit from a free interactive guide to help call handlers spot and tackle economic abuse when dealing with members of the public.

Economic abuse is a type of domestic abuse and is where a perpetrator exerts control over their partner or ex-partner’s finances.

We spoke to a woman who experienced it for two and a half years. Her husband took charge of their finances, leaving her dependent on him.

95% of women who experience domestic abuse say it involved economic abuse. 

Niki Scordi, the CEO of Advance charity, explained: “Understanding the behaviours of domestic abusers and their continuous attempts to intimidate and control survivors, mainly women and children, long after they leave the abusive home is vital.

"This includes control through economic and financial means, such as child support, school fees, bank accounts, loans and access to employment."

The new interactive tool is now being used by staff at HMRC and will soon be rolled out to businesses and other organisations across the country.

It is designed to guide call handlers and flag up potential cases of economic abuse.

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, CEO and founder of Surviving Economic Abuse, said: “We know that victim-survivors are more likely to disclose economic abuse to their bank than they are to the police.

“It is crucial that frontline employees – whether they work in the public or private sector - are trained to understand economic abuse and how abusers might use their service to continue to control a victim.

"It is vital they are given the knowledge and the tools to spot the signs of economic abuse, develop specialist responses and feel confident signposting a survivor to broader support. The right response can be life changing.”

Watch ITV News' interview with Victoria Atkins, Financial Secretary to the Treasury:

The economic abuse initiative has been welcomed by charities and domestic abuse campaigners.

There are, however, calls for the government to invest more in frontline support services.

Research by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner found that, in 2022, less than half of victims who wanted to access community services were able to do so.

It has prompted a coalition of women's charities and organisations to launch a petition calling for funding of at least £238 million a year in specialist domestic abuse community services.

Treasury minister Victoria Atkins told us: "We shouldn't just look to government to work on this because I've always said domestic abuse is everybody's business and so, with this economic abuse initiative, what we're trying to do is include businesses and encourage businesses to play their part and, in fairness, there is some great work that is happening."

She added that the government is committed to tackling domestic abuse, stating "we will do everything we can to fund services properly."

If you, or someone you know, has been a victim of economic abuse, you can contact the Financial Support Line - a free helpline run by Money Advice Plus in partnership with Surviving Economic Abuse