Banking staff trained to spot signs of financial abuse
Banking staff nationwide are being trained to spot the signs of financial abuse and coercive control.
The move follows research which found that over 20% of women aged 18 to 34 do not have control of their finances.
The Banking & Payments Federation of Ireland says younger women also find it difficult to collect money owed to them.
BPFI member banks AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank, Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB, have published the BPFI principles on financial abuse to help customers who may be subject to coercive control.
The training by Women’s Aid aims to help staff recognise customers who may be subject to financial abuse and coercive control.
According to research carried out by Amárach on behalf of the BPFI, 22% of women aged between 18-34 years old not have control over their financial affairs.
That is twice the proportion for all respondents.
41% of women aged under 35 reported finding it difficult to manage money, compared with 29% overall.
36% of younger women said they found it difficult to collect money owed to them, compared with 23% overall.
Almost one-third (31%) of younger women said they had relied on help from others and almost half of those were being helped at the time of the survey.
This compared to 21% and 25% across all respondents respectively.
Not all customers who report not feeling in control of their money are subject to coercive control, the Banking & Payments Federation said.
However it said some customers, both men and women, are likely to experience this.
Financial abuse occurs within close relationships and can happen at any age, regardless of wealth or status, according to the BPFI’s Head of Sustainable Banking Louise O’Mahony.
“Perpetrators may be partners, family members or people on whom customers depend for support and the perpetrator may use the customer’s money in a way that limits the customer’s actions and future plans; they may be left with no money for basic essentials such as food and clothing for themselves or their children.
“They may have no access to their own payment accounts and no source of independent income. Through the development of these principles we hope to support those customers who find it difficult to keep control of their own money due to domestic violence and coercive control.”
Women’s Aid said it hears hundreds of disclosures of financial abuse each year from women experiencing domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner.
The organisation said financial abuse is a central element of domestic violence including coercive control.
Its CEO said abusers use money as a means of controlling and isolating their partners as well as gaining power and dominance to isolate someone into a state of complete financial dependence.
Abusers’ control of access to financial resources, according to Sarah Benson, ensures that their partners are forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and facing poverty and financial hardship.
“By implementing these principles on responding to and supporting victims of financial abuse, banks can increase recognition of this form of abuse among their staff and better support their customers who are being subjected to it. This can ultimately help to increase financial security for victims at a time when they may feel completely isolated and alone.”
The BPFI says customers should make contact with their bank if they have any concerns and dedicated one-to-one appointments can be made where customers can speak in confidence.
Further information for those seeking help is available on safeguardyourmoney.ie