Help with money

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Please note: the information on these pages is intended as a general guide only; each woman’s situation is different. Women should call us on 0808 2000 247 to discuss their rights and options in more detail.

Financial difficulties can be scary or confusing to manage at the best of times, but untangling such problems can be even more daunting if you have also experienced economic abuse. Just remember, you are not alone.

Economic abuse is a form of domestic abuse. It is very common, with approximately 1 in 5 adults in the UK experiencing it at some point. It is a way of controlling a person’s ability to acquire, use and maintain their own money and resources. Economic abuse can take many forms. Abusers may prevent you from earning or accessing your own money; spend or take your money without your consent; build up debts in your name; damage your possessions or property. If you are separated and have children, the abuser might withhold child maintenance payments.

Refuge has created a list of questions which might help you recognise whether you are experiencing economic abuse. Does/did your partner:

  • Prevent you from working, or stop you from going to work?
  • Prevent you from going to college or university?
  • Ask you to account for every penny you spend?
  • Check your receipts, bank statements or banking apps so they can monitor how much you are spending
  • Keep the log-in details, bank cards or PIN numbers for your joint account so that you cannot access the account?
  • Spend money allocated to bills for other things?
  • Steal, damage or destroy your possessions?
  • Spend whatever they want, but belittle you for spending any money?
  • Insist on control of all financial matters?
  • Insist that all the bills and loans are in your name?
  • Make you ask permission before making any purchase, no matter how small?
  • Make significant financial decisions without you (e.g. buying a new home, car)?
  • Place debts in your name?
  • Steal money from you, or use your bank card without permission?
  • Withhold child maintenance payments?
  • Initiate expensive post separation legal battles knowing you could not afford to fight, or it would bankrupt you? If any of these situations feel familiar, you may be experiencing economic abuse.

If you are experiencing economic abuse, it is likely you are experiencing other forms of abuse from your partner.

If you have started to worry about your financial situation and think that you might be experiencing abuse there are some steps you could take to protect yourself now. We can provide support and help for you to make the changes which could help protect you. You can speak to someone about your options – you can speak to an advisor from the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge on 0808 2000 247.

Practical tips:

If you are experiencing economic abuse, here are some practical first steps you can take. Remember, only make them if you can do so safely:

  • Speak to an adviser from the
  • Meet with an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA)
  • Freeze any joint accounts
  • Change PIN numbers and online banking passwords
  • Be clear what is in your name and what is not—joint assets, tenancy agreements, mortgages, bank accounts, and credit cards
  • Know where important financial documents are kept: keep copies in an emergency bag or with a friend
  • Consider talking to a financial expert—free services such as Citizens Advice, StepChange, or the Money Advice Service.
  • Identify which benefits you are entitled to. Use a benefits calculator— Entitled To, the government benefits calculator.