When Aoife* left her daughter’s father due to domestic violence and moved in with her mother where she lived with her daughter. The environment quickly became unbearable for her when her mother became manipulative and began to verbally, emotionally and financially abuse. She would take her out loans in her name and expect her to pay. Click here to read Aoife’s story.
Financial abuse is a distressing form of exploitation that affects individuals across various demographics, including those over the age of 55, people with disabilities, and those subjected to domestic abuse. It involves the improper or illegal use of someone else’s funds, assets, or resources for personal gain, often resulting in severe financial consequences for the victim.
In the United Kingdom, efforts are being made to raise awareness about financial abuse, implement protective measures, and provide support to those affected. Read on as we explore the nature of financial abuse, its impact on individuals, and the key safeguards in place to combat this issue.
The Prevalence of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is a hidden problem, often underreported due to fear, shame, or the victims’ lack of awareness about the situation.
According to a survey conducted by the National Domestic Violence Helpline, 60% of respondents reported experiencing financial abuse alongside other forms of domestic abuse. Age UK reports that around 130,000 older adults in the UK have experienced some form of financial abuse, which includes theft, fraud, scams, and coercion. In a survey by Citizen’s Advice, it was found that 27% of their clients who sought help for financial issues also experienced financial abuse. In 2019, the Office of the Public Guardian received over 5,000 safeguarding concerns related to financial abuse.
Understanding Financial Abuse
Financial abuse takes various forms, and it is crucial to recognize its manifestations to effectively combat this issue. Some common examples include:
Coercive Control: Perpetrators exert control over a victim’s finances, restrict their access to money, and manipulate their financial decision-making.
Theft and Fraud: Illegally obtaining money or assets by forging signatures, misusing power of attorney, or exploiting vulnerable individuals’ financial resources.
Exploitative Relationships: Manipulating victims into giving money, taking control of their bank accounts, or coercing them into signing contracts or loans.
Scams and Fraudulent Investments: Conning victims into fraudulent schemes, investments, or online scams, often targeting vulnerable individuals.
Safeguarding Measures in the UK
The UK has implemented several safeguarding measures to protect individuals from financial abuse and provide support:
- Mental Capacity Act 2005: This legislation helps protect individuals who lack the mental capacity to make financial decisions and establishes the Office of the Public Guardian to oversee their affairs.
- Care Act 2014: The Act requires local authorities to conduct safeguarding inquiries when financial abuse is suspected and provides support to individuals in need.
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA): The FCA regulates financial institutions and provides guidelines to prevent financial abuse, such as ensuring vulnerable customers are treated fairly.
Support is available
Various charities and organisations, such as Age UK, Women’s Aid, and Citizen’s Advice Bureau offer advice, support, and helplines to victims of financial abuse.
- Surviving Economic Abuse is the only UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of economic abuse and transforming responses to it.
- The Financial Support Line; provides a safe space for the victim-survivor to discuss their financial situation and allow them to prioritise issues and move forward with economic safety. While advisers on the Line cannot help with everything, they can give strategies for dealing with debt, including coerced debt, discuss welfare benefit issues, support in developing a budget, look at problems being experienced with utility companies and other bills, talk through how to safely open a new bank account or work through problems being experienced with banking, and in some cases, signpost or refer to apply for small grants if there is severe financial hardship.To contact the Financial Support line for advice and guidance call our freephone number 08081968845 between 9am–5pm Monday to Friday. Unfortunately, volume on the Line is very high, so it may take a while to get through. Please do keep trying.
Remember, if you or someone you know is being subjected to financial abuse, please seek help from any of the support organisations mentioned above.
Recognising the signs and understanding the impact of financial abuse is crucial to effectively combat this form of exploitation. By addressing financial abuse head-on and working together as a society, we can create a safer environment for vulnerable individuals and ensure their financial security and well-being.
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