Protecting against financial abuse

Everyone has the right to financial independence. If your partner is controlling your money or running up debts in your name, it’s financial abuse. But there’s no need to struggle on alone. Here are some of the things you can do and where to go for help and support.

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse. An abusive partner may stop you from having control over your money as a way of trying to exert power over you.

A financially-abusive partner may also be physically violent, but it’s not always the case. Financial abuse in the home – whether or not it’s accompanied by aggression or physical violence – can leave you feeling isolated, lacking in confidence and trapped.

It can include:

  • stopping you from getting (or keeping) a job
  • making you hand over your wages or benefits
  • making you ask your partner – or others – for money
  • making you account for every penny you spend – for example by showing receipts
  • not allowing you to spend money on yourself or your children
  • controlling your bank account
  • stealing, taking or demanding money from you and/or
  • running up debts in your name

Worried about Universal Credit single payments?

With the introduction of Universal Credit in England, Wales and Scotland, several existing benefits and tax credits are being combined into a single monthly payment. Couples who live together will make a joint claim for Universal Credit and it will usually be paid into one bank account. Child Benefit will remain as a separate benefit outside Universal Credit.

When you make your claim you will be asked which bank account you want to have your money paid into. If you and your partner do not agree on an account for your Universal Credit payments, then the Jobcentre Plus will nominate one.

If you’re worried about your partner controlling all your benefit income and leaving you (and your children) without any cash, you should ask someone at the Jobcentre Plus if you can have your Universal Credit paid into your own account or split into separate payments.

That way, you will get money for yourself (and your children) and your partner will get a separate payment. This is an option for anyone in ‘exceptional circumstances’, for example anyone who is at risk of domestic or financial abuse.

Where you can get advice

If you or your children are in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

If you are not in immediate danger, there are a number of organisations that can give you help and advice.

Women’s Aid

Women’s Aid can offer help and support if you’re experiencing financial abuse. Your local Women’s Aid organisation might also be able to recommend a suitable solicitor if you need one. You can find information on their websites or by calling their helpline.

  • In England go onto the Women’s Aid website or call the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247.
  • In Wales go onto the Welsh Women’s Aid website or call the All-Wales 24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
  • In Northern Ireland go onto the Women’s Aid website or call the Freephone 24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 802 1414.
  • In Scotland go onto the Scottish Women’s Aid website or call the Freephone 24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline on 0800 027 1234.

Men’s Advice Line

Call the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 8010 327. It’s free from landlines and most mobile phones.

It provides emotional support, practical advice and can signpost you to other services for specialist help. Alternatively, you can visit the Men’s Advice Line website.

How to leave safely

If you want to leave your partner, there are a series of steps you can take to ensure your safety and make sure your finances will be as manageable as possible.

  • Keep a record of each incident. Take photographs of any physical harm to you, your home or things you own.
  • Report each incident to your local police and doctor so that they keep a record.
  • Contact a family law solicitor.
  • Make a safety plan in case you need to leave your home in an emergency.

You may be able to get legal aid to help pay the costs of legal advice for taking legal action to protect you and your children. Look for a solicitor who takes legal aid cases.

Important documents

If you want to separate from your partner, try and gather together important paperwork before you need to leave.

Try to find:

  • passports
  • birth certificates (yours and your children’s)
  • payslips and/or benefit award letters
  • tax documents, such as your P60 and P45
  • your National Insurance number
  • bank statements
  • documents proving ownership of any belongings
  • credit card bills and other bills that are in your name or in joint names

If it’s not possible – or not safe – to take the originals, then try making copies, or write down key information such as account numbers. But you shouldn’t take information you can’t get access to easily (for example, you shouldn’t access your partner’s computer without their permission).

Where to get cash in an emergency

If you have to leave in a hurry and you have no access to cash, contact your local authority (or the devolved administration in Wales) to see if they can help you with emergency support.

Your next step

If you decide to end your relationship, then take immediate steps to protect your finances during divorce or dissolution or protect your finances during separation if you were cohabiting.