finance

'I work with survivors of financial abuse. These are their 3 common challenges.'

Commonwealth Bank
Thanks to our brand partner, Commonwealth Bank

Financial abuse is one of the most common forms of domestic violence in Australia.    

In fact, up to nine in 10 people who seek help for domestic and family violence are affected by this form of intimate partner abuse. 

Common signs include controlling a partner's spending, controlling bank account access, taking out debt in a partner’s name without their consent, and sabotaging employment opportunities (among many, many more). 

Financial abuse can have a long-term emotional and financial impact on victim-survivors. 

Financial abuse is one of the most common forms of domestic violence in Australia. Image: Getty.  

One of the services available to help victim-survivors get back on their feet financially is the Financial Independence Hub delivered by Good Shepherd and funded by the Commonwealth Bank as part of Next Chapter: a program to help victim-survivors of domestic and financial abuse. 

The hub was designed in conjunction with people who have experienced this form of abuse first-hand to ensure it delivers the right support in the right way.

Through the hub, people previously impacted by financial abuse have access to free specialist one-on-one financial coaching to help build confidence and capability in managing their own finances, with referrals to support services and, where appropriate, access to financial solutions like interest-free loans. 

Emma Buccat is one of the financial coaches who speaks with victim-survivors every day about how to become financially independent again. She says there are three common challenges for victim-survivors of financial abuse:

1. Debt. 

“Our participants are coming to us with a lot of debt from their previous relationship and they are struggling to manage them,” Ms Buccat explains. 

“Obviously that causes a lot of stress for them and it can often have them in financial hardship because these are debts they really can't afford.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It makes it really hard to focus on the future when you have these debts over your head from the past,” the financial coach says, adding many of the debts are loans that were taken out in their name by an ex-partner. 

That is, of course, why services like the Financial Independence Hub exist. Through one-on-one financial coaching and other support, the Hub helps participants to build capability in managing their finances.

2. Confidence. 

A lack of confidence is one of the common challenges for survivors of financial abuse. Image: Getty. 

Lack of financial confidence is another major challenge for many victim-survivors. One of their biggest hurdles can be knowing how to manage their money now that they are in control of their own financial decision-making again, Ms Buccat says.

“There's people that haven't paid bills for years. They haven't paid rent or mortgage or general groceries. So that's where as coaches, we work with our participants to build goals and actions, and work through different tools that are going to build that confidence.”

The goal for the hub is to ensure that participants have the confidence to know how to manage their money independently, how to budget and how to save. 

3. Ongoing legal issues. 

Ongoing legal issues, such as settlement of property, can often be a major long-term challenge for victim-survivors. 

“We find that this is one area where domestic and family violence and financial abuse can continue for years after separation,” Ms Buccat explains. 

“As financial coaches, our focus is to ensure our participants are linked with the correct legal services and continue to follow up and make sure that they're receiving the support that they need.

“That's a really important part of the hub: we focus on creating that holistic support by linking them with the external services where appropriate.”

So, what can life look like on the other side?

Whilst these challenges are significant, they’re also not insurmountable. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Financial Independence Hub is aimed at helping clients get back on their feet and financial coaches will often refer those with debt onto other support services such as independent financial counsellors who can advocate for these to be waived due to the nature of how these were accrued. 

“We've seen thousands of dollars of debt waived for our participants where loans have been taken out in their name by coercion and they've had no benefit of the loan,” Ms Buccat says. 

“This means they are able to focus on the future and the money that's coming in is solely for them – they're not trying to also pay off debt from the past.

“Just not having that stress of having debt that you can't afford makes such a big difference.”

Seeing the renewed confidence in survivors has been one of the most rewarding elements of working for the hub. 

“They leave being able to manage day-to-day finances with confidence. We've had participants save a lot of money and just generally have less fear around money and less anxiety around paying a bill or going grocery shopping.” 

CommBank Next Chapter helps victim-survivors of domestic and financial abuse to become financially independent. 

To connect directly to the Financial Independence Hub, call Good Shepherd on 1300 050 150 (weekdays 9am - 5pm AEST) or visit them online.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please know that support is available. Call the National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service, 1800 RESPECT, on 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

Feature image: Getty. 

Share with us. Take our survey for a chance to win a $100 voucher. 

MMSurvey

Commonwealth Bank
CommBank’s Next Chapter program aims to help people impacted by financial abuse, perpetrated through domestic and family violence, achieve long-term financial independence. To find out more about the program, please visit commbank.com.au/nextchapter