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Disunited Kingdom: Victims of domestic abuse deserve our support wherever they live

Katie Osiadacz, Head of Responsible Business

Katie Osiadacz, Head of Responsible Business | TSB

3 min read Partner content

Businesses have a crucial role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse for their staff and customers. But in helping victims break free from such a vicious cycle we must do more than just raising awareness and signposting to support services.

The practical realities of escaping from abuse can pose significant barriers to survivors to overcome. All businesses, but especially those offering customer-facing services like banks, can play their part in helping an estimated 2.4 million victims to overcome these challenges.

While many victims face the threat of violence, abuse isn’t just physical, it can also be psychological. This can include economic control and financial dependency on the abuser.

According to Women’s Aid, two thirds of survivors said that abusers were using the cost-of-living increase and concerns about financial hardship as a tool for coercive control. Almost three quarters of women living with or having financial links with their abuser said that the cost-of-living crisis had either prevented them from leaving or made it harder for them to leave.

TSB was the first bank to make all of its branches ‘safe spaces’ – a place where any victim could find a haven from which they could seek further help and support.

But it was clear that, by itself, a safe space would not be enough to enable some victims to make the break with their abuser. That’s why, in December last year, TSB launched its ‘Flee Fund’, offering customers who are impacted by domestic abuse an emergency payment of up to £500 to help escape an abusive relationship.

Since then we have helped 96 customers, both men and women, many of whom were accompanied by children, with a payment of up to £500 enabling them to pay for their first few nights of accommodation away from home or food and travel. We’ve also helped victims set up new bank accounts where they have lacked the usual credentials needed to prove their identity. From the highly emotional feedback that I’ve received from colleagues who have supported victims, I know that this has had a huge impact and undoubtedly saved lives.

TSB was the first bank to make all of its branches ‘safe spaces’ – a place where any victim could find a haven from which they could seek further help and support.

Having taken this bold step and seen such positive early feedback, it was encouraging to see the Government launch its own pilot scheme for England and Wales earlier this year, offering payments to victims to help them break free. But as we approach the end of the six-month pilot, there is now an outstanding decision to be made on whether to find a safeguard for the victims in the longer-term. Meanwhile, Scotland does not currently have a Government-led scheme although it was agreed in principle in 2020.

I’m pleased to be here at Labour’s conference to talk about what TSB has done to help victims across England, Scotland and Wales. Our experience has demonstrated the difference that financial support at the right time can make. There are no easy answers, but it is clear that it requires a unified approach across government, business and charities, to provide the comprehensive, permanent solutions that victims across the UK need so urgently and we will continue to play our part. 

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