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A new survey shows the impact of economic abuse, including failure to help with childcare, during the pandemic, with women disproportionately affected.
Domestic abusers have been increasing the tactics they use to control the economic resources available to their current and former partners during the pandemic, according to a new report.
The report by Surviving Economic Abuse [SEA], says women have been disproportionately affected. Based on a survey of over 350 domestic abuse victims, the survey found that controlling measures such as the abuser refusing to help with childcare or being unreliable with childcare and the abuser not allowing access to equipment necessary for work meant victim-survivors had had to reduce their hours at work, be furloughed or had lost their jobs, sometimes with devastating economic impacts. Forty-three per cent reported that the perpetrator had interfered with their ability to work or study during the pandemic.
The survey also found that:
– 84% of respondents with child maintenance arrangements worried about access to child maintenance.
– Almost four out of five respondents reported that the perpetrator had attempted to control their money or finances during the outbreak, 68% saying this had been successful.
– 39% of women said their financial situation had significantly worsened and 33% said this had slightly worsened due to the perpetrator’s actions in the pandemic
– About 20% reported that the perpetrator had tried to control or interfere with their welfare benefits during the pandemic
– 57% reported that their ability to seek help in relation to the perpetrator had been impacted by lockdown and social distancing.
Nearly two-thirds of women surveyed were planning to seek support around child maintenance, a third were planning to seek money or debt advice and one in five women were planning to seek help around welfare benefits at the end of the first lockdown. SEA saw a 65% increase in calls to the national financial support line for victims of domestic abuse (run in partnership with Money Advice Plus) and an 85% increase in website traffic at the start of the pandemic. This situation is likely to have been compounded as the pandemic has continued and follow-up interviews revealed ongoing challenges.
Eight per cent of respondents said they had had plans to leave before the first lockdown, but were prevented from doing so. Others indicated that they had left shortly before the pandemic began and found the process of rebuilding their lives even more challenging and some were thinking about going back.
Many were no longer in a relationship with nor living with the perpetrator, but had still been subjected to economic abuse post-separation. SEA is working to ensure post-separation abuse is made a criminal offence via the Domestic Abuse Bill.
SEA says the banks and building societies that it works with have shared that customer disclosures of domestic abuse are increasing and says customer vulnerability teams can offer an alternative pathway to support. It adds that there has also been “extraordinary innovation” in responses to economic abuse during the pandemic which it hopes will continue.