TUC and Women’s Aid launches report into the impact of the recession on women

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Austerity, Women

TUC women and austerity

A report published today by the TUC and Women’s Aid reveals the hidden misery of women trapped in financially abusive relationships, in many cases leaving them trapped in poverty and without any access to money for essentials, emergencies or for their children.

The report, Women’s experience of financial abuse and potential implications for Universal Credit was carried out by Women’s Aid for the TUC. It catalogues the experiences and views of women who took part in research through focus groups and a survey – shining a light on a problem which is not only misunderstood but for which there are no official figures.

The report explores how the introduction of Universal Credit threatens to compound the problem for these women, by further reducing their access to independent income and placing yet more control in the hands of the abuser.

Financial abuse is defined as the control of money, exploitation of survivors’ income and time, and sabotage of their efforts to generate an income through work.

The report finds that:

  • 77 per cent said their mental health had been affected by financial abuse
  • 75 per cent were prevented from seeing family and friends
  • 76 per cent said their partner kept financial information from them
  • 67 per cent of those in work during the abuse said their partner monitored their work activities
  • 58 per cent said their partners used them as a source of money

The financial abuse was accompanied by other controlling behaviours and abuses. Abusers spent money on their own needs first, leaving the women and their children without basic essentials. In other cases, women were locked up at home and forced to provide unpaid labour in family businesses. One woman spoke of how she had just £10 per week to live on while another explained that her abusive partner refused her money for sanitary supplies.

Many women noted that the financial abuse escalated and continued after separation, often relating to child maintenance or legal proceedings.

More than 40 per cent of survey respondents receiving benefits or tax credits said their partners took their benefits from them.

Following on from the research, Women’s Aid and the TUC have called for a five-point plan which would see:

  • Survivors and agencies identifying and responding to abuse
  • Banks dealing with abuse more effectively
  • Changes to the delivery of Universal Credit to reduce the risk of further opportunities for financial abuse
  • Benefits and child maintenance systems supporting survivors
  • Further data collection to identify more detail about this form of abuse, so that more effective interventions can take place

To achieve this Women’s Aid and the TUC are calling on government departments, agencies and banks to review their practices in light of the report’s findings and to implement policy changes to protect survivors of financial abuse. Key recommendations include paying childcare elements of Universal Credit to the main carer, providing training for Jobcentre Plus and bank staff so they are able to identify problems during the Universal Credit claim process, and reviewing legal aid regulations.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This report shines a light on the under-reported and often misunderstood problem of financial abuse.

“Women’s economic independence is crucial to their ability to escape abusive relationships. This report spells out very clearly the steps that the government must take in order to ensure that Universal Credit does not serve to further trap women in abusive relationships and in poverty.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Perpetrators of domestic violence will use every form of control available to them, which often includes controlling money.

“Many women find it impossible to leave because they don’t have the money to escape, while others spend years trying to pay off debts, clear their credit scores after taking out loans and credit cards for their partner in their name and rebuild their lives.

“Professionals working in all statutory agencies, job centres and banks need specialist training so they can recognise domestic violence and refer women to support. We urge the government to implement the report’s recommendations as soon as possible.”

The report can be downloaded here.

 


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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