CARBS Which Way
Finding the right help for you
Citizens Advice offers free, confidential information on a range of topics from debt and benefits to immigration and housing. But did you know we can also put you in touch with other specialist services who may be able to give you the particular help you need?
Take domestic abuse for example. Not everyone realises that Surrey, one of the most affluent counties, has some of the highest rates of domestic abuse in the country. Yet this is a crime which crosses boundaries of financial and social status, age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. It’s also one of the most hidden and something those who experience it are reluctant to talk about; they may be frightened or controlled and often even family and close friends have no idea it’s happening.
And some clients don’t even recognise that what’s happening IS abuse. Many people think of domestic abuse as controlling a partner or family member with physical violence, but there are other ways of misusing power. The Serious Crime Act of 2015 broadened the definition to include emotional, psychological, financial and coercive control, and once a client recognises they ARE experiencing abuse, Citizens Advice can be the first call in getting help. Citizens Advice Reigate & Banstead works closely with the East Surrey Domestic Abuse Services (ESDAS) Outreach and can refer clients to them for specialist help and advice.
How we helped Alison* (name changed)
It wasn’t clear at first why Alison had come to Citizens Advice. She explained she lived in a lovely house with her husband and two small children who she looked after full-time. She said the family had no money worries or debts, but asked a few general questions about benefits she might be entitled to ‘if her circumstances changed’. She also asked if she would have a claim on the family home given that her husband paid all the bills.
A little gentle questioning around the subject revealed that Alison wanted to leave her husband. He was extremely controlling, both emotionally and financially, telling her repeatedly she was a useless mother who was totally dependent on him, and giving her a strict allowance every penny of which she had to account for. He’d also insisted she download a tracking app onto her phone so that he could check her whereabouts every minute of the day while he was at work. She’d already devised a cover story for her visit to Citizens Advice! – she would tell him she wanted to know how make applications to primary schools for her daughter, even though she knew he would say she was an idiot, because everybody knew you could find all that out on the internet!
The adviser suggested Alison might like to speak to the specialist service, who would not only provide a confidential ‘ear’, but also practical help and support. Alison was reluctant at first in case her husband found out, but when she heard that the Service could meet her on neutral, non-identifiable territory, such as in the local park, she agreed. Several months later, Alison returned to Citizens Advice. With the specialist support, she’d found the courage to ask her husband to leave. The family home was for sale and she intended to buy something for herself and the children with her share of the proceeds. She now wanted a benefit check and some practical advice about getting back into work.
* Name changed. CARBS Which Ways? The Series