Civil servants will be trained to identify signs of economic abuse so they can support vulnerable people and prevent them from racking up debt, the Cabinet Office has announced.
Frontline government staff will be given an Economic Abuse Toolkit, giving guidance to help officials to spot the signs and create an appropriate environment for victims to speak out on their experiences.
The toolkit will used by frontline staff across government including HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions officials.
Economic abuse is where an individual’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources is taken away by someone else in a coercive or controlling way. Domestic violence charity Refuge estimates 16% of adults in the UK have experienced this.
In a public sector context, abusers preventing victims claiming support which they are entitled to in order to make them financially dependent.
Staff will be trained on how to handle any declarations sensitively and then ensure victims get access to support, helping to ensure vulnerable people don’t accumulate debt to the government.
The toolkit was created by the Fairness Group, a collaboration led by the Cabinet Office’s Government Debt Management Function which brings together central and local government, debt advice sector and the debt collection industry.
Specialist charity Surviving Economic Abuse, one of the organisations which contributed to the Toolkit, registered an 85% increase in traffic to their website during the pandemic.
Research by the charity also found seven in ten frontline professionals reported the number of victims of economic abuse coming to their organisation for help had increased since the start of the pandemic.
Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin said: “Economic abuse is an abhorrent crime and we are determined to use all levers of government to stamp it out.
“It is a problem that is often hard to spot and this new toolkit will give staff on the front line the tools to help identify and protect vulnerable people.
“Through helping people access the support they need, this toolkit will help us tackle this crime and get victims out of abusive relationships and into safe spaces.”