Frontline government tax and benefits staff are to be trained to spot victims of economic abuse where their partner may be intercepting or blocking their welfare payments to maintain control over them.
Ministers have sanctioned a “toolkit” which will provide civil servants across departments including HMRC and work and pensions with the warning signs to identify and techniques to support victims of economic abuse, which was put on statutory footing for the first time in the Government’s new domestic violence laws.
The charity Refuge estimates 16 per cent of adults – one in seven – have been victims of economic abuse where a coercive partner, relative or friend takes over their finances to undermine their independence and prevent them escaping their control.
Staff will be trained to spot at least five different traits including abusers preventing victims claiming support which they are entitled to in order to make them financially dependent.
Others include victims being unable to communicate their financial position and therefore not being able to access government support, being unable to claim for support due to the abuser putting everything in their own name and abusers putting bills to government in the victim’s name and then refusing to pay.
The final tactic is where abusers gain access to financial information regarding the victim without adequate consent and use it to blackmail or exert control over them.
Staff will be trained on how to handle any disclosures by victims sensitively and then ensure they get access to support and avoid building up debt that could lead to their further exploitation by their abuser.
Jeremy Quinn, Cabinet Office Minister, said: “Economic abuse is an abhorrent crime and we are determined to use all levers of government to