Nicola Sharp-Jeffs' Story
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs travelled to Australia and the USA to investigate ways of supporting survivors of financial abuse.
At the time of the Fellowship, Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs was a Research Fellow within the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU) at London Metropolitan University. She has worked in the violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector since 2006 and has a passion for understanding and responding to financial abuse as it occurs within the context of domestic violence.
Nicola spent two weeks in the USA (July, 2016) and three weeks in Australia (November, 2016). The aims of the Fellowship were to: explore innovative responses to financial abuse; understand how different stakeholders work together to address financial abuse; and evaluate the potential for transferring the learning gained to the UK. During her travels she met with 50 professionals from a range of social, financial and legal organisations.
Upon returning to the UK, Nicola established ‘Surviving Economic Abuse’ (SEA), a charity that will act as a catalyst for action in the financial abuse space (financial abuse is a form of economic abuse). The objectives of the charity are to build the capacity of social, financial and legal organisations to respond to economic abuse and to coordinate responses so that victims are able to access integrated pathways of support.
In the first six months of 2017, SEA was successful in securing a three year grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to set up the Economic Justice Project. This will replicate work in the USA which Nicola witnessed during her Fellowship. This sees domestic violence services and consumer lawyers form partnerships to support women whose partners have taken out loans or credit in their name, either fraudulently or through coercion.
The international learning gained through the Fellowship informed a review of the domestic violence evidence requirements undertaken by the Ministry of Justice. At legislative level, the Domestic Violence and Abuse Act outlined in the Queen’s Speech provides a unique opportunity to define economic abuse. SEA will also be advocating for the Westminster Government to consider criminalising economic abuse as is the case in Tasmania, Australia.
Nicola is using the learning from her Fellowship to contribute to a working group convened by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) informing the development of an industry standard on responding to financial abuse. She also contributes to the work of the domestic abuse steering group at Lloyds Banking Foundation.
Another outcome of the Fellowship is an international network of practitioners, policy makers and researchers who share best practice and research on economic abuse. This is now made up of over seventy individuals in five different countries and continues to grow. Nicola is also co-editing a book on economic abuse with Professor Adrienne Adams at Michigan University in the US. The book is based on her Fellowship travels and outlines interventions being implemented in Australia, the US and the UK.
Nicola has also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour speaking about financial abuse and the learning gained from her Fellowship.
Read Nicola’s report here
Follow Surviving Economic Abuse on Twitter @SEAresource