Industry backing for financial abuse code of practice

10 November 2016 The Co-op Bank's campaign 'My Money, My Life' campaign, launched in partnership with Refuge, has received industry backing for a 'Code of Practice. The code would provide a framework for banks to support victims of financial abuse.

Details in the press releas below.

THE CO-OPERATIVE BANK’S ‘MY MONEY, MY LIFE’ CAMPAIGN RECEIVES INDUSTRY BACKING FOR CODE OF PRACTICE

  • “My Money, My Life” campaign, launched in partnership with Refuge, national domestic violence charity, called for industry-wide agreement to support people who experience financial abuse in their relationships
  • One in five UK adults is the victim of financial abuse in relationships
  • A third of financial abuse victims suffer in silence, telling no-one

The Co-operative Bank’s ‘My money, my life’ campaign – launched in partnership with the national domestic violence charity Refuge to shine a light on the issue of financial abuse in relationships - has received industry backing to explore a Code of Practice. The Code would provide a framework for banks to support victims of financial abuse.

In December 2015, the Co-op Bank and, Refuge joined forces to call for banking industry agreement to support people who experience financial abuse in their relationships.

The campaign launch research found nearly one in five British adults - 9.2m people1 - said they have experienced financial abuse in an intimate partner relationship. Victims span gender, age and income groups; however, 60 per cent of all cases are reported by women.

Since launch, the issue has received national media attention, partly due to the recent storyline in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers involving domestic abuse, which also included financial abuse.

The Co-op Bank has collaborated with the British Banker’s Association (BBA) and the wider industry as part of their ongoing project around vulnerable customers. The BBA has agreed to explore the introduction of a Code of Practice, which banks will use when supporting vulnerable customers, including those who are subject to financial abuse, with the intention of it being introduced in 2017.

Niall Booker, CEO said: “The Co-op Bank and Refuge launched the ‘My money, my life’ campaign in order to highlight the true extent of financial abuse in relationships in the UK. While other types of domestic abuse were well-documented, the impact of this kind of coercive control where money is used as a weapon within an intimate relationship was not yet fully understood. Two-thirds of consumers who took part in the study thought this was an issue that banks should raise awareness of and that is exactly why we joined forces with Refuge to launch the campaign.

“We are delighted that the issue has received wide-spread attention over the past ten months’ including it being discussed in Parliament. The recent The Archers storyline has also helped underline the importance of raising awareness of this issue. We are pleased that the industry has agreed to explore the introduction of a Code of Practice that will ensure a consistency of approach to dealing with vulnerable customers who are the victims of financial abuse, and provide reassurance to customers that they will be understood and treated with the empathy they deserve.”

The campaign has provided thought leadership on this issue. As well as gaining agreement from the BBA to explore the introduction of a Code of Practice, the campaign was recognised in the Government’s Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy 2016-20 launch in March, and also in subsequent work by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB).

In addition, the Co-op Bank has:

  • Undertaken Bank-wide mandatory training for over 3,000 staff members dealing with vulnerable customers, including those suffering from financial abuse in relationships;
  • Published an online financial guide with Refuge to help victims of Financial Abuse which is downloadable from the Bank and Refuge websites. The guide has been distributed across Refuge’s frontline services
  • Changed internal Bank processes to ensure that joint bank accounts can be frozen quickly and we are now looking at how we can ensure that individual bank accounts are treated separately, with safeguards in place to guard against further abuse taking place;
  • Trialled opening bank accounts for domestic abuse victims who are in refuges, in order to help them gain some financial control;
  • Encouraged staff to talk in confidence about their own personal experiences of domestic violence using our confidential employee assistance programme which is available 24 hours a day;
  • Added Refuge as a charity partner to our Everyday Rewards Current Account – which gives customers the opportunity to donate their monthly rewards to charity which has already raised over £2,000;
  • Donated an additional £18,000 to Refuge to support online dissemination and sharing of the guide and the campaign;
  • Worked with Refuge ambassador Lauren Laverne to produce a powerful video highlighting the impact of financial abuse in relationships;
  • Raised awareness of financial abuse via an ongoing media and social media campaign #mymoneymylife

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said: “Refuge is delighted that its ‘My money, my life’ campaign with The Co-operative Bank is having such a positive impact on banking practice.

“Our research has shown that financial abuse is shockingly prevalent in this country. Domestic violence is not just about black eyes and broken bones; it is about power and control. Financial abuse often forms part of a pattern of control, and can take many different forms. For example, men often force women to hand over their wages every month, they control and monitor the amount of money women are given to buy household essentials, or women are given such measly allowances that they cannot buy food or nappies for their children. Many women are prevented from going out shopping by themselves or are forced to provide receipts for every penny that they spend. Some are even prevented from getting or keeping a job.

“Agreement across the banking sector on how best to support women experiencing financial abuse will help them regain their financial independence and control of their lives. For many women, this is an important step towards leaving an abusive man. A new Code of Practice would empower women and could even save lives.”

For more information on the ‘My money, my life’ campaign, visit www.co-operativebank.co.uk/mymoneymylife