BPFI member banks publish Principles on Financial Abuse and roll out expert training by Women’s Aid for bank staff to help them assist customers who may be subject to financial abuse and coercive control
04th February 2022 – New research from Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) has found that over 20% of young women aged 18-34 do not have control over their finances and are more likely to rely on others for help with their money or report difficulties in managing their finances. Despite this however, the research found women in this age cohort are less likely to be concerned that someone might take advantage of them financially, with only 17% expressing concern compared with 27% overall.
The research comes as BPFI member banks AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank, Ulster Bank and permanent tsb, have published the BPFI Principles on Financial Abuse which aim to help customers who may be subject to coercive control to keep control of their money. In tandem with the Principles, training by Women’s Aid is currently being rolled out across the retail banks focusing on recognising and responding to customers who may be subject to financial abuse and coercive control.
The key findings from the research, carried out by Amárach, show:
- One in five (22%) younger women (18-34 years old) said they did not have control over their financial affairs – twice the proportion for all respondents (11%)
- 41% of younger women reported finding it difficult to manage money, compared with 29% overall
- 36% of younger women said they found it difficult to collect money owed to them, compared with 23% overall
- Almost one-third (31%) of younger women said they had relied on help from others and almost half of those were being helped at the time of the survey. This compared to 21% and 25% across all respondents respectively.
- Despite emerging as a cohort experiencing difficulty in managing their finances, younger women are less likely to be concerned that someone might take advantage of them financially, with only 17% expressing concern compared with 27% overall.
Speaking on the survey findings and the work which BPFI members are undertaking to support customers who are subject to financial abuse Louise O’Mahony, BPFI Head of Sustainable Banking, said: “The findings from our latest research indicate that of all customer cohorts surveyed, young women under 35 are most likely to not feel in control of their money, and yet also the least concerned that someone might take advantage of them financially which is clearly concerning. And while not all customers who report not feeling in control of their money are subject to coercive control, some customers, both men and women, are likely to experience this.”
“Given the difficulties faced by those in a domestic abuse situation BPFI and its domestic banking members have prepared the BPFI Principles on Financial Abuse for frontline staff that focus on the support which banks can provide to customers, women and men, to help them stay in control or regain control of their money. This builds on the expertise and experience the banking sector has developed to support customers who may be vulnerable. Unfortunately, financial abuse occurs within close relationships and can happen at any age and regardless of wealth or status. Perpetrators may be partners, family members or people on whom customers depend for support and the perpetrator may use the customer’s money in a way that limits the customer’s actions and future plans; they may be left with no money for basic essentials such as food and clothing for themselves or their children. They may have no access to their own payment accounts and no source of independent income. Through the development of these Principles we hope to support those customers who find it difficult to keep control of their own money due to domestic violence and coercive control.”
“In tandem with the principles and to support frontline staff and promote awareness of the experience of customers subject to financial abuse and coercive control, we have asked Women’s Aid to conduct in-depth training with bank executives responsible for policy implementation and awareness training with all frontline staff. This training will be embedded in members’ internal training and used as part of frontline staff’s professional development.”
Louise O’Mahony added that customers should make contact with their bank if they have any concerns. “Dedicated one-to-one appointments can be made when staff and customers can speak in confidence. You can discuss with the bank how they can best support you to access your money safely; they will be able to give you the most up-to-date information and suggest solutions for your situation. With your permission, staff may record that you may require help with your account.”
Also speaking today, Sarah Benson, CEO, Women’s Aid, said: “Women’s Aid commends Banking & Payments Federation Ireland for setting out these ground-breaking principles on financial abuse. As a leading national frontline organisation, Women’s Aid hears hundreds of disclosures of financial abuse each year from women experiencing domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner. Financial abuse is a central element of domestic violence including coercive control. Abusers uses money as a means of controlling and isolating their partners to gain power and dominance over their partners and it is designed to isolate someone into a state of complete financial dependence. By controlling access to financial resources, abusers ensure that their partners are forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and facing poverty and financial hardship. By implementing these principles on responding to and supporting victims of financial abuse, banks can increase recognition of this form of abuse among their staff and better support their customers who are being subjected to it. This can ultimately help to increase financial security for victims at a time when they may feel completely isolated and alone.”
Taking Back Control of your Finances
Two thirds of people who needed help from others to manage their money during the COVID-19 lockdown have not taken back control of their own finances.
This is according to new research commissioned by BPFI together with Safeguarding Ireland.
BPFI and Safeguarding Ireland recommend that, while following public health guidelines, people should take back and keep control of their own money as much as possible – in order to combat financial abuse.
Carried out on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, using RED C’s online omnibus survey, the research found that:
- 11% of adults needed the help of others to manage or access their money during the COVID lockdown period. However, just one-third (33%) of these have taken back this control since the lockdown restrictions were lifted
- One in twenty people (5%) said they experienced financial abuse during lockdown and 19% had ever experienced financial abuse
- 13% were concerned about someone taking advantage of them financially
- 12% experienced less control of their finances since the pandemic began.
During the pandemic the retail banks and An Post have developed services and policies to support vulnerable customers. People can talk with their bank who have trained frontline staff in identifying and responding to financial abuse. Steps which people should take include:
- Understand and organise your day-to-day banking
- Check your bank account(s) regularly
- Ensure access to your money for you and only a highly trusted person by putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney.
BPFI Head of Sustainable Banking, Louise O’Mahony said: “We and Safeguarding Ireland recommend that people keep control of their own money, particularly if vulnerable. As much as possible, and doing so safely, take back any control of your money you given up during COVID-19.
A lot of useful information is available in our called Safeguarding your Money Now and in the Future booklet.
BPFI Guide to Opening Bank Accounts in Ireland for Protection Applicants
BPFI and the five retail banks recently published a new BPFI guide for asylum seekers and refugees explaining how to open an account and providing examples of the documents that will be accepted. The guide, which will be provided to all accommodation centres, is also available in Arabic, French, Somalian, Georgian, Albanian as well as English. You can download these guides below.
Information guide and dedicated bank phonelines for cocooning and vulnerable bank customers
Banking & Payments Federation Ireland has published a special information guide providing practical advice for cocooning customers on the various ways in which they can manage their day-to-day banking and finances in a safe way while they stay at home. In addition each of the five retail banks, AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC, permanent tsb and Ulster Bank now have dedicated phonelines to assist cocooning customers during the Covid-19 crisis.
The guide gives essential banking advice for those cocooning which includes details on:
- Over the phone and online banking options
- Making payments over the phone
- Calling your bank, and
- Getting help with your banking
- List of dedicated phone numbers for each of the banks which customers can contact if they require assistance while cocooning
Safeguard Your Money Financial Abuse Campaign
We all need to prepare for the likelihood that one day we may need extra help to manage our financial affairs. This may happen unexpectedly and for a number of reasons including if you have a life-changing accident, become seriously ill or become frail due to ageing.
If you haven’t spoken to someone you can trust or have not legally stated your choices, preferences and decisions you reliant on the honesty of friends and family. Unfortunately, it is estimated internationally that in excess of 10% of people are dishonest in how they manage a vulnerable person’s money. However, this research confirms that the real incidence is higher than that with 20% reported.
Some 20% of adults in Ireland have experience of financial abuse
Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) together with Safeguarding Ireland have launched a campaign to highlight the need for greater awareness of the real risks of financial abuse and calling on all adults to better plan ahead to safeguard their finances. As part of this campaign we have commissioned research which shows that up to 20% of adults have experience of financial abuse, however many older adults still do not think that it could happen to them. Specially the research shows:
- Some 20% of adults had experience of financial abuse, either currently or in the past.
- A total of 10% said someone had used their property or possessions without permission, 8% said an income earning adult living with them refused to contribute to household bills, 6% said someone was making decisions about their money without consulting them and 4% said that they had money taken or used from a joint account without their agreement.
- While some 43% said they were concerned about experiencing financial abuse in the future, the same figure of 43% were not concerned that financial abuse could happen to them in the future – with older people the least concerned about the issue.
BPFI’s Guide to Safeguarding You Money Now and in the Future
BPFI and Safeguarding Ireland are calling on adult to take proactive steps to plan ahead and avoid financial abuse by talking to someone they trust about their future finances. Whether you have a little or lot to safeguard, some simple steps in planning ahead include:
- Understanding and organising your day-to-day banking to best protect against financial abuse
- Checking your bank account(s) regularly
- Ensuring access for you, and only a trusted person if needed, to your money by putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney.”
BPFI along with its member banks and with support from Safeguarding Ireland have developed a guide on Safeguarding Your Money Now and in the Future which provides advice on how you can best prepare for a time when you may need assistance to properly manage your money.
The guide, which can be downloaded here, is also available from banks and the offices of many Safeguarding Ireland members, including HSE Safeguarding Teams across the country, and has achieved the Plain English mark from NALA.
BPFI member banks have taken the approach that anyone can be vulnerable and are developing policies to allow frontline staff (at a branch or hub, in a call service or online) to identify a customer who may need assistance and to deal sensitively with such situations. Safeguarding Ireland and the HSE Safeguarding Office have provided us with expert training and these insights are integrated into bank training.
Financial Abuse of Vulnerable Adults: Experience of Bank Staff
The National Centre for the Protection of Older People at University College Dublin recently completed a report examining bank staff’s experiences of financial abuse of vulnerable adults, funded through BPFI and involving five retail banks – AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, permanent tsb and KBC.
Survey data were collected from almost 900 bank frontline bank staff and interviews were undertaken with 20 bank managers and five members of the National Safeguarding Committee (a multi-agency and inter-sectoral body, established by the Health Services Executive in 2014 to help ensure that adults who may be vulnerable are safeguarded).
Findings from the survey data demonstrated that some 66.5% of survey respondents had previously suspected a customer to be experiencing some form of financial abuse, while interviews indicated a widespread awareness and competence within the banking sector, and in particular a strong willingness on the part of staff to assist and protect the customer.
What is Financial Abuse?
The HSE defines financial abuse is defined as the unauthorised and improper use of funds, property or any resources including pensions, or others statutory entitlements or benefits. Financial abuse involves an act or acts where a person is deprived of control of their finances or personal possessions or exploited financially by another person or persons.
Unfortunately, banks have found that at times people close to some of our customers can sometimes take advantage of the customer’s dependence on them. The abuser may often not consider taking money from their relative or friend’s account for their own uses as wrong and the customer may be reluctant to take formal action. So planning ahead to ensure your own wishes are followed and your money is protected makes sense.
Financial abuse can be subtle. It can build up over time, so you do not realise that what is happening is unfair to you and possibly illegal. It can also be complicated when it is carried out by someone you know and perhaps depend on. Regardless of your age, status or capacity, you should be confident your money is managed directly, safely and for your benefit.
Contacting your bank
If you want help and advice about keeping your money safe or you are concerned about fraud, contact your bank.
|Bank of Ireland||1800 946 146|
|KBC||1800 804 472|
|Permanent tsb||1800 218 000|
|Ulster Bank Ireland DAC||1800 656 001|
You can also contact the Health Service Executve (HSE) for help and information. There are Safeguarding and Protection Teams in place all over the country, to take reports of abuse of older persons and other adults at risk of abuse in vulnerable situations and provide help. Contact your local Safeguarding and Protection Team through the contact details below.
Website: Safeguarding and Protection Teams
Phone: 061 461 165 or the HSE Information Line on 1850 24 1850
BPFI and Safeguarding
Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) represents the banking, payments and fintech sector in Ireland. Working on behalf of our members banks BPFI participates in the Safeguarding Ireland Committee which seeks to promote a culture of safeguarding vulnerable adults.
Our members have taken the approach that anyone can be vulnerable and are developing policies to allow frontline staff (at a branch or hub, in a call service or online) to identify a customer who may need assistance and to deal sensitively with such situations. Safeguarding Ireland and the HSE Safeguarding Office have provided us with expert training and these insights are integrated into bank training.
Banks can take actions to prevent and stop financial abuse; they can make dedicated one-to-one appointments available for customers who need it, they can speak with customers in confidence, and with an account holder’s permission they can monitor for suspicious behaviour.
Safeguarding Ireland was established to promote safeguarding of adults who may be vulnerable, protect them from all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and develop a national plan for promoting their welfare. This will be achieved by promoting inter-sectoral collaboration, developing public and professional awareness and education, and undertaking research to inform policy, practice and legislation in the Republic of Ireland. https://www.safeguardingireland.org/