Refuge, the UK’s largest national domestic abuse charity, and free debt advice provider, PayPlan, are working together to support survivors of domestic abuse to become debt free.

  • One in five adults in the UK (the majority of whom are women) experience economic abuse[1]
  • The collaboration will help survivors of domestic abuse access and receive free debt advice
  • Refuge provides specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic abuse
  • PayPlan offers free expert debt advice to anyone struggling with multiple debts
  • Since the start of lockdown Refuge has seen a huge spike in demand for its Helpline

The collaboration has seen PayPlan provide key information for Refuge’s frontline staff to help survivors manage their income and expenditure, helping vulnerable people get a handle on their finances. In turn, Refuge has upskilled PayPlan to be able to educate creditors on how women are affected by abuse and why repayment breathing space is essential.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the sheer number of women experiencing domestic abuse and why the work Refuge does is needed more than ever. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which Refuge runs, has seen a recent 66% spike in demand as well as a shocking 950% rise in visits to its Helpline website since lockdown began.

The partnership has seen Refuge review all of PayPlan’s processes within its advice journey to identify any potential risks for clients who are experiencing domestic abuse. Learnings from this audit, and from supporting clients, are forming a joint working document to help change practices across the financial industry.

Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, says: “Refuge is delighted to have partnered with PayPlan to develop a unique partnership which launched in September 2019. As many as one in five adults in the UK experience economic abuse; by far the majority are women. This regularly includes perpetrators taking out credit in a woman’s name, often in secret, leaving the survivor with life-limiting future debt.

“An initial success has been to agree a three-month ‘breathing space’ of time in which debts are frozen to develop solutions to addressing debt issues. This gives more time to address financial matters but also ensures Refuge’s staff can prioritise building safety plans for women and their children when they access our specialist services.

“As our partnership and our learnings develop, PayPlan and Refuge aim to influence policy, build industry codes of practice and remove the barriers facing survivors of domestic abuse that prevent them from becoming financially independent and resilient. Everyone has the right to live a life free from violence and fear; PayPlan and Refuge are working together to achieve this aim.”

Rachel Duffey, CEO of PayPlan, says: “Our close working relationship with Refuge has allowed us to review how we effectively work with victims of domestic abuse in order to improve their financial wellbeing. The next steps for us include developing materials for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which Refuge runs, and deliver joint workshops for the money advice sector.

“Going forward, we will be holding industry events with creditors across the sector to discuss how we can work more closely together to ensure that vulnerable people have the support they need to stay safe, save money and improve their credit rating.”

Anyone experiencing economic abuse can seek support at or call Refuge’s 24-hour Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

PayPlan offers free debt support to thousands in the UK every year. Call them for free on 0800 316 1833 or visit

[1] Research conducted by The Co-Operative Bank in partnership with Refuge, 2015.