NatWest is to give more help to customers with coercive debt while the TSB has joined the national Safe Spaces scheme for domestic abuse victims.
The pledge by NatWest follows an internal review which looked into how the bank can better support customers who have been victims of economic abuse and associated debt a key obstacle to their recovery.
“Without careful understanding and a focus on prevention, banks could only end up dealing with the output of coercive debt, rather than seeking to find ways to prevent or proactively addressing the issue,” the bank said.
In addition to backing longer term research into how signs could be detected, NatWest says it is committed to changing how it helps customers, such as enabling them:
- to report their circumstances via a secure online form;
- to conduct confidential conversations with a dedicated financial abuse specialist at a safe time for them;
- to open a new account with a different sort code to hide their location after they leave the relationship; and
- to access existing support services including online banking and mobile apps.
To increase staff awareness of coercive debt and financial abuse, the bank will also provide further training with SafeLives and Surviving Economic Abuse, the organisations which conducted the six-month review with NatWest. During it bank employees were prompted to identify additional cases of coercion endured by customers.
Among the study’s findings were that 58% of people had not heard of coercive debt and 79% had not heard banks talking about it.
Separately, TSB has become part of Hestia’s Safe Spaces initiative. The bank’s 290 branches join the 5,300 pharmacies nationwide offering victims of domestic abuse a private room to phone a helpline, contact a support service, or talk to a friend or family member.
TSB trialled its involvement in Hestia’s scheme at branches in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire. Bank staff have received specialist training to increase their confidence in responding to disclosures of domestic abuse.