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    Credit Agencies Should Beware They Do Not Prolong A Victim’s Abuse

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    Credit Agencies Should Beware They Do Not Prolong A Victim’s Abuse

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    I was drawn to an article last week that was published by NerdWallet all about financial control. That got me thinking about the punishing financial after-effects of what we help our clients to do… survive and escape!

    The financial mayhem that develops after escaping an abuser is not easy to deal with. There can be damage to a former victim’s credit history, the effect that has on future mortgage applications, rental agreements, credit cards, and loans, even on opening a bank account – in fact any situation that requires a financial examination.

    Many survivors might decide that declaring insolvency or entering into an Individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) is the best option for them but, while this does draw a line under historical problems, there can still be a knock-on effect on obtaining most financial products.  Strangely, home and car insurance premiums may escalate, or insurance might even be refused.

    When the burden of all this mess is borne by the survivor, and the perpetrator gets away scot-free, something is clearly not right.

    For years on end a victim may suffer with financial abuse but, even when that hugely difficult and courageous decision is taken to leave, the abuse continues. Nowadays records are kept more or less forever: non-disclosure could be deemed as a fraudulent application and land the victim with a criminal record.

    There is a lot of work for the credit agencies and the wider financial industry to do here, I think.  Could it not be made possible for someone to reset their credit history and purge the information that was collected during an abusive relationship, leaving a survivor to be able to escape their abuser once and for all?

    Martin Lewis considered this subject and he clearly thinks that the depth of this problem is far greater than just giving advice on how to recognise the symptoms. Great practical tips and information can be found here https://blog.moneysavingexpert.com/2019/06/martin-lewis–financial-abuse–joint-accounts-and-managing-money/ there are some other great links to be found there too.

    More great advice is available here https://survivingeconomicabuse.org/

    Mark Groves, CEO

    Financial Abuse often occurs alongside other forms of domestic abuse and is part of a pattern of behaviour called ‘coercive control’.  If you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse, there is help, advice and support available.  Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 2000 247, which is a confidential 24-hour service run by Refuge.

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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”