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‘I was financially abused – then I found out I couldn’t get my pension for another 6 years’

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03.09.2019

One in five UK adults have experienced economic abuse, according to the charity Refuge, and 60 per cent of them are women. Economic abuse was recognised for the first time in this year’s Domestic Abuse Bill, which is currently under threat from the Government’s proroguing of parliament.

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, the founder of Surviving Economic Abuse, the only UK charity dedicated to the issue, says, “economic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, income and social standing.” Dr Sharp-Jeffs is calling on the yet to be announced Domestic Abuse Commissioner to urgently make an inquiry into the area. “It’s vital that the impact of this form of abuse is recognised and solutions are identified and implemented,” she told i.

‘The average pension pot for a 65-year-old woman is one-fifth of a man’s, thanks, in part, to domestic and caring responsibilities’

But what does this experience look like for women over 50, and those approaching state pension age? Statistics suggest that these women can be financially vulnerable. A report from the Chartered Insurance Institute found the average pension pot for a 65-year-old woman is one-fifth of a man’s, thanks, in part, to domestic and caring responsibilities that have kept women from the workforce.

In addition, we know many women have struggled in the face of the rising state pension age. According to the research, most women in the bottom 40 per cent of households by household income have no pension wealth at all. Coupled with the increasing health issues that come with age, and an ageist society, do women over 50 face a particular set of challenges when it comes to economic abuse?

‘We didn’t expect to see this level of control’

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Debora Price, Professor of Social Gerontology at the University of Manchester, carried out Behind Closed Doors, a first of its kind research project in 2013 that looked at how older couples manage money together. Of the 90 couples interviewed, (there was at least one 65-year-old or older in each couple), the research found about a third of women had experienced long-standing coercive control through money, either by partners dictating how much they can have, what they can spend it on, and if they can access accounts.

“We had been expecting some levels of control,” Professor Price told i. “But we didn’t expect to see quite as much or see it operating quite so harshly.” The research suggested this behaviour wasn’t necessarily exacerbated by older age, “but now it’s completely invisible because nobody really cares about that age group”. For some women, the arrival of pensions were their first means of independent money during their whole adult lives.

‘We’ve met older women who have never had access to an independent income, who have struggled to meet their most basic needs for over 40 years’ – Dr Nicola Sharp Jeffs

Of the project, Professor Price said: “We came away thinking this quite a challenge for feminism.” It generated a shift in thinking about poverty: “If a couple isn’t categorised as poor officially, because........

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