25 Feb 2021
NatWest and SafeLives launch applications for ‘The Circle Fund’
The ‘Circle Fund’ will be open to frontline specialist services supporting victims of economic and domestic abuse. It will provide crisis intervention, increase safety and help support recovery and resilience.
NatWest Group has announced that applications from frontline specialist services supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse will open for ‘The Circle Fund’ in partnership with SafeLives; the UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for everyone and for good.
Economic abuse is a form of domestic abuse, which is characterised in relationships by controlling a person’s ability to acquire, use and maintain their own money and financial resources. According to the Office for National Statistics, lockdown saw a major surge in domestic abuse calls to helplines.
This follows the announcement of NatWest donating £1m for the Fund last year, the first bank in the UK to offer this amount of financial support to domestic and economic abuse victims and survivors. SafeLives and NatWest have worked together with survivors and specialist domestic abuse services to co-create the programme, making sure the lived experience of survivors influences its design.
After a successful pilot across nine specialist frontline services, ‘The Circle Fund’ will now be open for applications from services across the UK. It will offer 150 services the opportunity to receive funding to distribute to those most in need. Applications are strongly encouraged from smaller organisations supporting communities marginalised because of their race, LGBT+ identity or disability.
My Sister’s Place, an independent specialist ‘One Stop Shop’ for women aged 16 or over experiencing domestic violence, received funding as part of the pilot. When Sarah* presented to My Sister’s Place, her children were under a Child Protection Plan and were living with her parents. Sarah had left her abusive partner and wanted to get her children back and regain control of her life. Through the Fund, she was able to purchase tablet computers so that the children could video call the grandparents. The tablets assisted with accessing online learning and activities during the pandemic. My Sister’s Place were also able to support Sarah with purchasing beds, bedding for the children and flooring.
David Lindberg, CEO of Retail Banking at NatWest said: “As a bank we are committed to championing people and families, which is why we have committed to work with SafeLives to help those affected by financial and domestic abuse. The Covid-19 outbreak has been especially difficult for people experiencing economic abuse and we have worked hard as a bank to support our customers and colleagues affected. We’re delighted the Circle Fund will also help in communities across the UK, by providing vital access to funds for survivors of financial and domestic abuse, helping to build financial and confidence and independence too.”
Suzanne Jacob, Chief Executive of SafeLives said: “For too long financial abuse has remained ‘hidden’ with victims unable to access the support they need. The brilliant charity Surviving Economic Abuse, alongside forward-thinking financial institutions like NatWest, are changing that. 70% of survivors who engaged with us through our Every Story Matters platform told us that the perpetrator used money as a way to control them or cause harm. The Circle Fund will allow survivors to live a life free from fear and rebuild their lives. We’re delighted to be working with NatWest and to see their ongoing commitment to ending domestic abuse.”
Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO at Surviving Economic Abuse said: "We are encouraged that economic abuse will be recognised in the upcoming Domestic Abuse Act; however victim-survivors need support to maximise their access to economic resources to regain control of their lives. For this reason we are delighted to be working with SafeLives and NatWest on the Circle Fund which will help do exactly that. Such support is never more needed."
Victoria Atkins, Minister for Safeguarding said: “I am incredibly pleased to see NatWest and SafeLives working together to offer support to victims of domestic and economic abuse. Home should be a safe place for everyone, but for those confined with an abuser it is clearly not, so I would urge those in need to utilise the support provided by The Circle Fund. There is a part for everyone to play in tackling this abhorrent form of abuse and this initiative shows that businesses, working with charities, can provide vital services to help and support victims.”
Together with partners SafeLives and Surviving Economic Abuse, NatWest is already working to ensure that vulnerable customers are protected at this challenging time. NatWest customers can:
- Report their circumstances using our secure online form
- Conduct secure confidential conversations with our dedicated experts at a safe time for them
- Access existing support services including online banking and mobile app access as well as the ability to open a new secure account in their sole name
Further sources of information and advice about sources of support for all victims and survivors can be found on the SafeLives website.
*name has been changed