Supporting people facing financial abuse during COVID-19

RLC's statewide financial abuse service is maintaining free telephone advice during the pandemic, and we welcome referrals.

In times of crisis, there is evidence that family and domestic violence increases in frequency and severity. RLC’s Financial Abuse Service NSW is continuing to provide free, confidential legal assistance by telephone to people across NSW, and we encourage referrals at this critical time.

Home may be the safest place to avoid the virus, but it’s not a safe place for a person living in an abusive relationship. Some people may experience financial abuse for the first time and for others it may escalate.

During the pandemic, it is easier for signs of financial abuse to be disguised as financial stress, unemployment and housing insecurity. Frontline community services are best placed to identify people who have experienced financial abuse, if their partner has:

  • forced them to live off an allowance and controlled all the household income
  • accumulated debt in their name, or threatened to ruin their credit record or make them bankrupt
  • restricted access to bank accounts, or drained their savings
  • refused to contribute to household expenses such as rent, electricity, phone and internet bills
  • coerced or fraudulently used their personal information to apply for a loan or credit card online (including payday loans and buy now, pay later products)
  • coerced them to sign documents they didn’t read or understand
  • eroded equity in joint assets, such as mortgaging the family home
  • forced them to make an early withdrawal from superannuation
  • coerced them to provide a personal guarantee for a business loan, or made them a director of a company
  • used social distancing as an excuse to stop them attending their workplace or stopped them from working or studying from home by removing access to the phone/internet, monitoring their work communications or damaging / hiding work equipment
  • used the pandemic as an excuse to withhold financial support, like child support payments
  • fraudulently applied for or taken control of social security benefits in their name and threatened to “dob” them into Centrelink.

We predict that financial abuse issues arising during the pandemic will continue to present for years after the crisis.

RLC’s Financial Abuse Service NSW can provide advice about the legal options to resolve the credit, debt and consumer law problems that stem from financial abuse. If you would like to refer someone for legal assistance, or contact us about a problem you are experiencing yourself, you can:

Call us on 0481 730 344, Monday to Thursday from 9am – 1pm.

Or

Assist the person to complete our web enquiry form (or if you are the person seeking assistance, complete the form yourself).

Or

Email us at falsintake@rlc.org.au with the following information:

  • Potential client’s full name
  • A safe contact method for the potential client
  • Full name of the abusive partner
  • List of all known creditors (anyone chasing the potential client for money)
  • Any further information that will limit the client having to re-tell their story (when relevant)

If we cannot assist with their particular matter, we can refer the enquiry to another service that may be able to assist.

If you have any further questions about financial abuse and our service, please do not to hesitate to call us on 0481 730 344 or email falsintake@rlc.org.au.