On 12 July, FCVic along with other members of the Economic Abuse Reference Group (EARG) wrote to the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, Minister for Social Services, and other Ministers responsible for women’s safety, ahead of their meeting on 22 July to discuss issues including economic security.
In the context of that meeting, FCVic urged the Government to amend the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children to better comprehend financial abuse as an aspect of DFV, and address victim/survivor poverty and economic insecurity. As part of this, the National Plan must also include consideration of social security, both as a key means of ensuring economic security for victim/survivors, and as a system requiring redesign to prevent its use as a tool of financial abuse.
As part of our peak body role, FCVic advocates on behalf of financial counsellors and their clients on systemic issues that cause and exacerbate poverty and hardship. DFV is a prominent issue encountered by our members in their practice, and we represent a large cohort of specialist Family Violence Financial Counsellors and their clients in our advocacy work.
Our members’ work with victim/survivor clients has demonstrated that reforms to social security are urgently needed to improve victim/survivor access to assistance, and to prevent Centrelink laws and procedures from enabling DFV and causing further harm to victim/survivors.
For example, Victorian Family Violence Financial Counsellors can attest to the frequency with which victim/survivors are pursued by Centrelink for debt which is beyond their control and for which they have received no benefit, for example due to coercion or incorrect information provided by a perpetrator.
As set out in our submission on the draft National Plan in February 2022, FCVic urges the Government to address the failure of the draft National Plan to include economic security, including the role of the social security system. These issues must be addressed to improve outcomes for victim survivors.