BNZ launches banking team to help domestic violence survivors

BNZ launches banking team to help domestic violence survivorsBNZ launches banking team to help domestic violence survivors.

BNZ is launching a domestic and economic violence team, to offer banking help to people who are escaping dangerous relationships.

“New Zealand has a terrible record on domestic and inter-partner violence. People in these situations are extremely vulnerable, their lives are turned upside down, and all the things many others rely upon like their family, jobs, friends as well as access to the basics like food, shelter, and their money, may be being impacted,” said chief people officer Kate Daly.

“They have complex needs and need the best support we can offer. We are working with other expert support organisations, like Women’s Refuge to make sure that they are talking to a specialist who understands what is going on and help them get what they need.”

The team will not deal directly with the public and will require a referral from an agency such as a refuge, so that the support BNZ gave could fit with the other assistance they received, the bank said.

Daly said the role of money in these situations often went below the radar, but had a tremendous impact.

“Economic abuse takes many faces, but can be largely categorised into three areas – control, where a partner uses money to control someone, taking their pay and removing access to bank accounts for example, limiting, where a partner limits how someone uses money, how it’s spent, where, and taking all their assets, and sabotage, where a partner creates an uneven financial picture, for example putting all debits in another partner’s name.

“Abuse through money and economic resources can create financial instability and make someone dependent on an abuser. It can be easy to become trapped and experience even more harm.

“This kind of behaviour sadly isn’t rare, and it cuts across all of society – all demographics, all socioeconomic groups, all kinds of relationships.

“Minimising harm and vulnerability requires broad work across society, from governments, social services, and from companies alike. BNZ is committed to playing its part to support victim survivors,” she said.

It is expected the domestic violence support team will be ready to work with support organisations and vulnerable customers in the next two weeks.

Auckland University of Technology senior finance lecturer Ayesha Scott said the role institutions should play in responding to financial control was the subject of ongoing research.

“BNZ’s move follows that by banks in countries like Australia and the UK. The evidence estimates one in three women will face economic abuse over her lifetime, and my research and that of others in New Zealand documents the devastating and ongoing impact it can have on families.

“Financial control does not need physical proximity and therefore, can continue for years after the ‘end’ of an abusive relationship. Institutions can unwittingly aid abusers by simply being unaware of what abuse looks like, and the control victim/survivors are subject to.

“I am hopeful BNZ will take a leadership role in this area and that the entire industry pays careful attention.”

She said some banking systems kept people in dangerous situations – such as the ongoing requirement for both signatures on decisions made about a joint mortgage, even after an abusive relationship had been disclosed to the bank.

“I spoke to a woman who had tried three times to financially disentangle themselves from their ex, and was unable to because he refused to sign the documentation.

“Recognising economic abuse and violence requires urgent solutions, it is important to move forward with the best information available and be willing to make adjustments as new issues arise.”

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