Providing support for customers affected by financial abuse is at the heart of a new program being rolled out nationally, as one of the measures Commonwealth Bank is taking to help customers affected by domestic violence, which is estimated to cost as much as $20 billion a year.
The Commonwealth Bank Domestic & Family Violence Emergency Assistance Program, initially launched in November 2017 as a 12-month pilot, is being extended due to customer need. The program handled 87,000 calls in its first month and to date, 6,000 customers have accessed assistance.
The program offers services including access to independent specialist trauma counsellors, financial assistance, safe establishment of bank accounts and telephone support to ensure appropriate communication with family and friends.
Of those people helped so far, nearly 95 per cent were women, with half of the total aged between 22 and 35 and a third between 35 and 50. The dedicated helpline received the most calls from NSW residents, followed by those in Western Australia and in Queensland.
Research shows 16 per cent of Australian women will experience financial abuse in their lifetime. Among those affected by domestic and family violence, the incidence is much higher, with up to 90 per cent of women affected. The issue doesn’t discriminate by gender, age, social class or location, with men and LGBTIQ intimate partnerships also affected.
CBA is putting more than $18 million towards a range of prevention and support measures to be part of a community movement to address domestic and family violence in Australia.
In addition to the Emergency Assistance Program, CBA has introduced initiatives including educating younger generations on gender equity principles and providing training to bank employees and financial counsellors across the country to identify and support those who might be victims of domestic and family violence.
Catherine Fitzpatrick, General Manager of Group Customer Relations, Commonwealth Bank and chair of CBA’s domestic violence working group said: “We know that financial abuse can impact the long-term financial wellbeing of our customers, particularly women, and our focus on financial education and supporting our customers in crisis is one way we can help.
“Our customer response shows the need is great, and it’s essential government, community and corporates work together. Having help to access and manage your money gives people choices and, especially for those in violent relationships, can literally mean the difference between life and death,” Ms Fitzpatrick says.
Moo Baulch, Chief Executive Officer at Domestic Violence New South Wales, who has worked with CBA on a resource guide for frontline domestic and family violence workers, says a focus on prevention and education will lead to greater awareness of financial abuse among Australians.
“We’re seeing a positive shift and increased awareness with the way Australians think and talk about domestic and family violence. We do still have a long way to go, and particularly with a broad community understanding that domestic violence is not just physical. It’s a pattern of abuse and control of one partner over another with a number of contributing factors and different types of behaviour such as financial abuse.”
For more information, including eligibility criteria, on the Domestic & Family Violence Emergency Assistance Program visit www.commbank.com.au/dv-assistance.
Research statistics in the release refer to:
- The Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018 report: the cost of violence against women and children in 2015-16 was estimated to be $22 billion.
- Kutin, Russel and Reid’s 2017 report, Economic Abuse between intimate partners in Australia: prevalence, health status, disability and financial stress, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
- Adams et al 2008 report, Development of the Scale of Economic Abuse, Violence Against Women
Source: Commonwealth Bank of Australia