Supporting victims of domestic abuse

The group responsible business, sustainability and inclusion director at Lloyds Banking Group explains how the company is helping its staff and customers

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Lloyds Banking Group’s core purpose is to help Britain prosper. As such, we believe we have a responsibility to help address some of the social, economic and environmental challenges that the UK faces. This includes domestic abuse, which remains a taboo subject, often hidden behind closed doors.

But this is an issue that should concern us all. The figures are startling. One in four women and one in six men
experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. The cost to the UK economy is estimated at £1.9bn a year due to decreased productivity, time off work, lost wages and sick pay. The human cost is incalculable.

Given the numbers, it is likely that a large proportion of our customers and colleagues are impacted by domestic abuse and we have a responsibility to support them. The starting point needs to be raising awareness of domestic abuse and helping to reduce the stigma associated with it.

Within Lloyds Banking Group, we have started this process by running an awareness campaign called “Is it time to take the first step?”, in which colleagues across the group have shared their personal stories to break down the stigma. This has been extremely powerful as it creates an environment where colleagues can speak openly without fear of judgement. But it is important that colleagues have the right support in place too, and this includes:

  • Access to support, counsellors, financial and legal specialists through our Employee Assistance Programme.
  • Safe places within our offices for colleagues to make phone calls or take some time.
  • An internal health and wellbeing web page providing signposting to external support organisations.
  • A flexible approach to providing leave, empowering our line managers to provide their colleagues with the time they need depending on their situation, such as emergency leave and paid leave to allow colleagues to attend appointments or to change their working arrangements.

More recently, we have promoted BrightSky, which is a free app developed by Hestia, a charity providing comprehensive support to people affected by domestic abuse. We also want to be the best bank for all customers, which means we are dedicated to supporting people in vulnerable circumstances. The publication of the Domestic Abuse Draft Bill is a moment where we can start to see cultural change. Through the many domestic abuse charities supported by our independent Lloyds Bank Foundation, we understand the wide-reaching impact of domestic and financial abuse, and we fully support the progress of legislation which will help victims.

Back in October 2018, we, along with a number of other UK banks, committed to providing further support to victims and survivors of financial abuse through the new UK Finance voluntary Financial Abuse Code of Practice. Since then, we have launched a dedicated financial abuse support site across our three core brands, Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland. This provides information on ways we can support customers that are experiencing financial abuse. We have also been working in partnership with the charity Surviving Economic Abuse and subject matter experts to gain a much deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those experiencing financial and domestic abuse.

We know the needs of customers affected by domestic abuse differ greatly and as a result we have implemented a range of initiatives to support the wide spectrum of needs.

Our customers can now:

  • Remove a single party from a joint account without needing consent from both parties.
  • Open a new sole account registered against a PO Box address if they are an existing joint account holder.
  • Victims of domestic abuse can open a new account without the standard ID and verification under the ID exceptions process.

But perhaps arguably, as we continue our support for victims and survivors of domestic abuse, we will see one of our most significant milestones, when in the coming months we launch our Financial Abuse Specialist Support Team. This new team will work closely with Surviving Economic Abuse and charities that have been supported by the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales. They will be resourced by specialists who understand this issue and will provide a bespoke service to our customers who are victims and survivors of financial abuse, offering support to help them regain control of their finances so they can begin to rebuild their lives.

Much of Lloyds Banking Group’s work has been informed by our partnerships with the third sector. In 2018, our charity, the Lloyds Bank Foundation provided 102 individual grants totalling over £6.1m to small and medium sized charities supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse in the UK. And partnership is vital on this issue.

By raising awareness of domestic abuse and taking action to promote healthy relationships and healthy finances, we want to be part of a movement which breaks down stigma and helps colleagues to recognise the signs, and feel confident and equipped to support each other, and of course, our customers. To do this, we want to work with all those who have a stake in addressing this issue: business, regulators, charities and politicians of all parties.

We don’t have all the answers and there is clearly more that we – and the financial services industry as a whole – can do. But working together with our partners, we have an opportunity to transform the way domestic abuse is viewed and provide support to victims and survivors.