Banks publish Principles on Financial Abuse and roll out expert training by Women’s Aid for bank staff.
New research from Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) has found that over 20% of young women aged 18-34 do not have control over their finances and are more likely to rely on others for help with their money or report difficulties in managing their finances.
Despite this however, the research found women in this age cohort are less likely to be concerned that someone might take advantage of them financially, with only 17% expressing concern compared with 27% overall.
“Unfortunately, financial abuse occurs within close relationships and can happen at any age and regardless of wealth or status. Perpetrators may be partners, family members or people on whom customers depend for support”
The research comes as BPFI member banks published the BPFI Principles on Financial Abuse which aim to help customers who may be subject to coercive control to keep control of their money.
In tandem with the Principles, training by Women’s Aid is currently being rolled out across the retail banks focusing on recognising and responding to customers who may be subject to financial abuse and coercive control.
Who controls your financial affairs?
The research found that one-in-five (22%) younger women (18-34 years old) said they did not have control over their financial affairs – twice the proportion for all respondents (11%).
It found that 41% of younger women reported finding it difficult to manage money, compared with 29% overall.
36% of younger women said they found it difficult to collect money owed to them, compared with 23% overall.
Almost one-third (31%) of younger women said they had relied on help from others and almost half of those were being helped at the time of the survey. This compared to 21% and 25% across all respondents respectively.
Despite emerging as a cohort experiencing difficulty in managing their finances, younger women are less likely to be concerned that someone might take advantage of them financially, with only 17% expressing concern compared with 27% overall.
Protecting against financial abuse
“The findings from our latest research indicate that of all customer cohorts surveyed, young women under 35 are most likely to not feel in control of their money, and yet also the least concerned that someone might take advantage of them financially which is clearly concerning,” said Louise O’Mahony, BPFI head of Sustainable Banking.
“And while not all customers who report not feeling in control of their money are subject to coercive control, some customers, both men and women, are likely to experience this.
“Given the difficulties faced by those in a domestic abuse situation BPFI and its domestic banking members have prepared the BPFI Principles on Financial Abuse for frontline staff that focus on the support which banks can provide to customers, women and men, to help them stay in control or regain control of their money. This builds on the expertise and experience the banking sector has developed to support customers who may be vulnerable.
“Unfortunately, financial abuse occurs within close relationships and can happen at any age and regardless of wealth or status. Perpetrators may be partners, family members or people on whom customers depend for support and the perpetrator may use the customer’s money in a way that limits the customer’s actions and future plans; they may be left with no money for basic essentials such as food and clothing for themselves or their children. They may have no access to their own payment accounts and no source of independent income. Through the development of these Principles we hope to support those customers who find it difficult to keep control of their own money due to domestic violence and coercive control.
“In tandem with the principles and to support frontline staff and promote awareness of the experience of customers subject to financial abuse and coercive control, we have asked Women’s Aid to conduct in-depth training with bank executives responsible for policy implementation and awareness training with all frontline staff. This training will be embedded in members’ internal training and used as part of frontline staff’s professional development.”
O’Mahony added that customers should make contact with their bank if they have any concerns. “Dedicated one-to-one appointments can be made when staff and customers can speak in confidence. You can discuss with the bank how they can best support you to access your money safely; they will be able to give you the most up-to-date information and suggest solutions for your situation. With your permission, staff may record that you may require help with your account.”
Sarah Benson, CEO, Women’s Aid, commended Banking & Payments Federation Ireland for setting out its principles on financial abuse.
“As a leading national frontline organisation, Women’s Aid hears hundreds of disclosures of financial abuse each year from women experiencing domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner. Financial abuse is a central element of domestic violence including coercive control,” Benson said.
“Abusers uses money as a means of controlling and isolating their partners to gain power and dominance over their partners and it is designed to isolate someone into a state of complete financial dependence. By controlling access to financial resources, abusers ensure that their partners are forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and facing poverty and financial hardship.
“By implementing these principles on responding to and supporting victims of financial abuse, banks can increase recognition of this form of abuse among their staff and better support their customers who are being subjected to it. This can ultimately help to increase financial security for victims at a time when they may feel completely isolated and alone.”