The major bank has launched two new services under a new program to support people impacted by financial abuse.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has introduced Next Chapter, a new program that aims to support people affected by financial abuse due to domestic and family violence.
The Next Chapter program would involve action in three key areas: providing care for vulnerable customers, expanding support for long-term recovery, and helping raise public awareness and increase action in response to the issue.
The bank has launched two new services under the program designed to enable victims and survivors of financial abuse achieve long-term financial independence.
The two new services include a financial independence hub in partnership with Good Shepherd, a provider of financial inclusion products and services, as well as a specialist CBA community wellbeing team.
The financial independence hub will offer a tailored financial coaching program by Good Shepherd to help people impacted by domestic and financial abuse establish a pathway to long-term financial recovery, and is available to everyone including those who do not bank with CBA.
The program provides specialist one-on-one financial coaching to those impacted, with referrals to support services and, in some cases, access to solutions like interest-free loans.
Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand CEO Stella Avramopoulos said the hub has been created in close consultation with people with lived experience of financial abuse, and support from a reference group of sector leaders and academic experts.
“We know that financial abuse is widespread and that it can be devastating. Our [frontline] staff see the impact of financial abuse [everyday],” Ms Avramopoulos said.
“We see people, primarily women, with bad credit histories or huge debt forced on them by abusive, controlling partners and often without access to their own money who don’t know how they will feed their kids.
“We know that financial inclusion and capability can be the key to changing a life.”
CBA has also launched a specialist community wellbeing team who can provide confidential support to help customers with their immediate banking needs, including direct financial assistance, safe banking support, and referrals to external experts if required.
The team has developed “trauma-informed” approaches, according to CBA, and can provide support to vulnerable customers, with guidance from Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia.
Commenting on the launch of the program, CBA CEO Matt Comyn said: “Financial abuse is one of the most powerful ways to keep someone trapped in a domestic and family violence situation, causing victims and survivors serious financial stress both during the situation and for some time after they leave.”
“It’s a hidden epidemic in our country, that has directly affected one in four Australian adults, and we want to change that,” he said.
Mr Comyn added that the community wellbeing team expects to support 125,000 customers in vulnerable circumstances over the next five years.
“We want to make it easier for victims and survivors to break free of the financial shackles of their abusers and to get the help they need to start the next chapter of their lives and achieve long-term financial independence,” he said.
The initiative from CBA follows its announcement in June that it would crack down on technology-facilitated abuse, after it found that customers were sending potentially abusive messages in banking transaction descriptions.
Majority think financial abuse is widespread
The launch of CBA’s program to tackle financial abuse has coincided with the release of the research, which has revealed that 26 per cent of the adult population has experienced financial abuse while 12 per cent know someone who has experienced it.
The new community attitudes survey of over 10,000 Australians about financial abuse commissioned by the CBA and conduced by YouGov in June 2020 has also revealed that four in five Australians agree that financial abuse is a widespread problem, while 79 per cent said they could not recall any support available to people who are experiencing financial abuse.
A further 63 per cent believe their bank should take the initiative to address the issue.
Of those who have experienced financial abuse, the most common behaviours experienced include having a perpetrator who uses all of their partners’ wages for household expenses, with the perpetrator spending their own money only on themselves (61 per cent), hiding assets (56 per cent), taking complete control of their partner’s finances (55 per cent), and refusing to contribute financially to their household (55 per cent).
Nearly one in 10 or 9 per cent of all Australians, admit to having been a perpetrator of financial abuse. This is the equivalent of 1.8 million people.
The majority of those surveyed, or 93 per cent, believe there are barriers to seeking support. Of those who have experienced financial abuse, only 54 per cent have sought help.
According to CBA, this indicates a “severe lack of understanding of financial abuse” when compared with physical and verbal abuse, which are more commonly known and well-documented forms of violence.
If you are suffering from abuse, depression or suicidal thoughts, or you’re worried about someone else and feel that urgent professional support is needed, contact your local doctor or one of the 24/7 crisis agencies below:
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
beyondblue: 1300 22 4636
[Related: ABA calls for action on financial abuse]
Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.
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