Lowering Barriers to Access: Redesigning Financial Abuse Services


Mentally Friendly worked with the ACT Government’s Family Safety Hub to co-design a service to support frontline community workers to better recognise and respond to financial abuse, with a follow-on embedded and collaborative service model, to tackle the ‘hidden problem and hidden solutions’ associated with financial abuse.

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Image: Mentally Friendly and ACT Government's Family Safety Hub Innovation Challenge
Image: Mentally Friendly and ACT Government's Family Safety Hub in co-design
Image: Mentally Friendly and ACT Government's Family Safety Hub in co-design
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  • 90% of people who experience domestic and family violence also suffer financial abuse. Despite being highly prevalent, awareness of both the problem and available support is low, it is both a hidden problem and hidden solution. Mentally Friendly was engaged to better understand financial crisis and design a service that responded to those learnings and intervened early. Our brief included discovery research, an innovation challenge workshop and co-designing a service, with delivery partners.

  • The intervention begins by raising awareness of the ‘hidden problem, hidden solution,’ by supporting frontline community service workers to better recognise and respond to financial abuse. Followed by, depending on the outcome of the first phase, an embedded and collaborative financial abuse service. Our process included discovery to seek out the most impactful space to focus on, an innovation challenge workshop to generate ideas, and design and prototyping to reveal the practical constraints for a feasible, but meaningful solution. This gave us the evidence to move forward to pilot with confidence.

  • Restoring financial safety can give people the confidence to leave an abusive relationship. It also reduces the likelihood that they will be forced to return to an abusive relationship because of financial reasons. The financial implications of receiving the right advice, as the right time, can lead to life changing outcomes for people experiencing financial abuse, from avoiding bankruptcy to keeping their home. We have taken best practice from the field of domestic violence prevention, combined with local ACT perspectives, to adapt a service that lowers the barriers to seeking and accessing support for financial abuse.

  • The service aims to solve some of these barriers to access and provide a holistic intervention. Firstly by raising awareness of the problem by building the service sector’s capability, so that no matter which door a person walks through, the knowledge is there to proactively and confidently screen and refer for financial abuse. It then provides an embedded and collaborative service model to deliver these services. An embedded service model, means one that is co-located in existing community service locations. A consistent, physical presence, in a safe neutral setting, build awareness and a trusted familiar face, and be ready to help at the moment when people are ready. A collaborative service model, means one in which the financial abuse intervention and staff work in partnership with existing community service staff. This means they can solve problems together that can’t be solved alone, providing a more holistic service for clients.