Banks’ role in tackling financial abuse
Where do you turn when your financial credibility is destroyed through no fault of your own? Rosie Lyon explains her struggle with financial abuse and her idea for a solution that went on to win the global Young Banker of the Year Award 2021.
My goal in life was to get a mortgage. It’s something I always wanted to achieve. At the age of 22, I completed that goal and I was so proud of myself. I did the house up and made it my own. I still own that property to this day, but I haven’t been able to access it since 2019. Why? Because I am a survivor of domestic abuse.
I had been with my partner for over seven years and we had a joint mortgage together. He was in and out of employment constantly and always needed financial support. Again, I thought that was my job. Little did I know it was a form of financial abuse. He would take cash out of the account, borrow money constantly and ‘lose’ his card so he had to borrow mine. When I left him in 2019, he stopped paying the mortgage. I moved out in August 2019 and was paying the mortgage in full until September 2020. I had gone from having thousands of pounds in savings to just £60 to my name at the end of the month. I took back some of that control with legal advice and stopped paying the mortgage myself. It’s been in the repossession stage since then. He’s still living in the property, refusing to sell and refusing to leave.
The effects that it’s had on me financially are:
1) I’m in debt from not paying
2) My credit rating is so low that I cannot even get a phone contract in my name and
3) I cannot obtain any lending. I can’t even go out and rent a property – due to no fault of my own.
While going through this horrendous time, I turned to my bank. I was told that I was jointly liable and so had to pay. There were times when I was getting phone calls every day asking why I wasn’t paying my mortgage, even though there was a note on the system. I had to retell my story over and over, experiencing the trauma again and crying to the bank staff down the phone. I was told my property would go to court for repossession. The deadlines were never met because it was on hold due to COVID-19. What was clear was that there was a distinct lack of training on their end. I was even told at one stage by the contact centre that my details could be shared with my abuser, as it’s a joint mortgage-data protection breach. They didn’t have a Domestic Abuse Policy in place, there was a lack of understanding and empathy, and I knew it was time for a change.
I entered the Young Banker of the Year worldwide 2021 competition with my idea: A Fairer Financial Future for Sufferers and Survivors of Domestic Abuse. The idea was split up into four elements:
1) Raising awareness
2) Implementing training
3) Enhancing policies and procedures
4) Obtaining lending opportunities for individuals with poor credit due to no fault of their own.
I was so proud when I won the competition. That award wasn’t for me, it was for all the sufferers and survivors of domestic abuse.
Since then, I have raised awareness in many ways, implementing training, helping bring out policies and enhancing procedures, and I’m working with the CEO of Accountscore Equifax and other stakeholders to obtain lending opportunities. The list goes on.
I hope that putting these ideas into place, it will help sufferers and survivors come forward. They will be safe, protected and understood. They will not be re-traumatised and they can rebuild their lives.
It is a bank’s duty to protect its customers. So why not start today?
To hear more from Rosie, watch the recording of our recent CPD event ‘Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Abuse through the Workplace’ here.