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Domestic abuse is a subject very close to our heart and as our partnership with Refuge, the UK’s largest national domestic abuse charity, approaches its three-year anniversary, we wanted to highlight and share with the wider industry the important progress we’ve made when it comes to creating safe pathways into debt advice for domestic and economic abuse survivors.

Earlier this week, we hosted a webinar to the financial services industry setting out what we’ve learnt since we first partnered with Refuge back in 2019. Although we’ve always supported people affected by economic and domestic abuse, at the time, our CEO, Rachel Duffey made a pledge for PayPlan to seek new expertise and dedicate time to improving the support on offer to survivors across the industry.

We’ve produced a Best Practice Guide highlighting our industry call to action, our key findings, risk mitigations and guidance for other organisations across the sector to develop the specialist support they offer to survivors of domestic abuse.

It’s come at a crucial time when the effects of the pandemic are still being felt and the cost-of-living crisis is causing further strain on household finances and relations. In a 2022 survey, 78% of Refuge’s frontline domestic abuse workers said that the cost-of-living crisis was increasing barriers to leaving perpetrators. Now, more than ever, we need to remove barriers and create a joined-up solution.

“When we launched this partnership with PayPlan in September 2019, we could not begin to imagine there would be a global pandemic looming, which significantly magnified the issue,” explained Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge.

“Horrifyingly 1.6m people in the UK started to experience economic abuse during the global pandemic and we now find ourselves in a cost-of-living crisis which is further impacting survivors.

“Further statistics from a recent survey of our frontline staff show that 92% of our staff are finding the cost-of-living crisis is pushing the survivors that they are supporting into debt or into further debt.

“This compares to 61% of staff who said the cost-of-living crisis is creating or intensifying experiences of economic abuse.

“Support has never been more urgent. The cost-of-living crisis has the potential to cost people their lives and that is not acceptable. It is in this context that through our partnership with PayPlan, we can make a real impact.

“We hope that by sharing some of our leanings we can increase understandings of the issues, take down more of the barriers and inspire more organisations to have support systems in place.”

What is economic abuse?

Economic abuse was finally recognised as a form of domestic abuse in legislation, with the Government’s passing of the landmark 2021 Domestic Abuse Act.

Economic abuse can leave survivors in significant debt with damaged credit ratings and can be a huge barrier for survivors who want to leave their perpetrators. The consequences of economic abuse can last for many years. And the statistics speak for themselves, with £14.4 billion of debt in the UK directly attributable to economic abuse, the need for specialist support is crucial.

What are PayPlan and Refuge recommending to the wider industry?

The recommendations from the review, which have led to the development of our joint Best Practice Guide, are:

  • Banks, creditors and debt advice organisations should invest more in training frontline customer services staff on how to recognise and respond to domestic and economic abuse and ensure clearer pathways to specialist support teams so that survivors of economic abuse are able to restore and increase their financial stability
  • Banks, creditors and debt advice agencies should form close links and partnerships with the violence against women and girls’ sector to better understand the needs of survivors. This innovative partnership between Refuge and PayPlan has shown how specialist financial support can have a positive impact on the experiences and outcomes for survivors of economic abuse

What can you expect to find in our joint report?

Our detailed 32-page report has been designed to help other organisations across the sector improve and create safer pathways into debt advice for survivors of domestic abuse.

It includes:

  • A call to action on how we intend to drive change across the financial sector
  • Key statistics and research on the prevalence of domestic and economic abuse in England and Wales
  • An overview of some of our key findings based on the experiences of both survivors, Refuge and PayPlan agents
  • Our joint best practice guide which includes learnings from our partnership, important considerations and the clear set of survivor care protocols we’ve devised. It also contains guidance on identifying risks within your own organisation, an understanding of potential barriers survivors and organisations alike may face and recommended mitigations

Rachel Duffey, our CEO, said: “Our relationship with Refuge is incredibly important to us and to our clients. Ensuring survivors get both the debt help and the emotional support they need sooner, in a way that puts their safety first is imperative.

“We’ll continue to provide support for survivors of domestic – and economic – abuse and we encourage other businesses and organisations to put similar processes in place so they’re also in a position to help people most in need.”

How can you help? Our ask to other organisations!

Banks, creditors and debt advice agencies can play a part in tackling this insidious form of abuse and should provide specialist support so that survivors of economic abuse are able to restore and increase their financial stability. We ask that awareness of domestic abuse is raised in every organisation and that banks, creditors and debt advice agencies implement sage strategies to support both clients and employees.

Everyone has the right to live a life free from abuse and the consequences this brings – and, together with Refuge, we hope to achieve this aim.

You can access and download our full report here.

To find out more about PayPlan and Refuge’s referral partnership or to enquire about our domestic abuse training programme, email domesticabusesupport@payplan.com.

Further information

www.payplan.com
www.refuge.org.uk
www.refugetechsafety.org
www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk