Expansion of the “Banking Availability Covenant” to reduce economic violence against women who are victims of violence

The updated version of the Covenant sets out that due to the importance of creating continuity in the process of becoming financially independent, the banks will continue supporting these women for an additional year after they leave the shelter.  In addition, the banks will adopt the shelters, and will help them by providing financial knowledge and education programs, including periodic lectures on various financial topics.

 

Supervisor of Banks Dr. Hedva Ber said, “The Banking Availability Covenant is the result of the combined efforts of all the relevant parties, and helps provide a broad and creative immediate response for women suffering from economic violence in addition to the physical violence they are experiencing.  The Banking Supervision Department ascribes supreme importance to helping these women, and will continue acting, together with the Association of Banks and the banking system, to expand leniencies for battered women and to strengthen the connection with the shelters.  Thankfully, we have managed to expand the application of the Covenant so that it will enable women leaving the shelters to continue getting the support of the banks for an entire year, in order to help them acclimatize to their financial independence.”

 

The Banking Availability Covenant is a voluntary covenant that was formulated and advanced by the Banking Supervision Department and the Association of Banks, together with theMinistry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, the banking system, non-profit organizations that operate the shelters, and the “Yedid” and “Women’s Spirit” organizations to reduce economic violence against battered women in shelters and half-way houses.  The Covenant was launched in January 2016 with the aim of assisting those women that have been forced to escape their homes and abusive husbands without any assistance or independent means, and that are finding it difficult to manage their finances, to overcome the economic violence they have experienced and to open a new chapter in their lives.

 

The economic violence these women have experienced includes: taking the woman’s money, controlling her by granting her a limited monthly cash allowance, creating a constant threatening atmosphere of “financial crisis”, transferring joint assets by the spouse without the woman’s knowledge, preventing the woman from going out to work, and more.

 

As part of the Covenant, each bank has an appointed contact person with appropriate training to provide a creative and rapid response to problems that occur, regardless of the location of the shelters or the bank branches where the women’s accounts are managed.

 

Since the Covenant was launched, 540 women have received assistance in dealing with economic violence, tools for proper financial management, and help in beginning a new and independent financial path.

 

As part of the implementation of the Covenant, representatives of the shelters are in constant contact with representatives of the banks and the credit card companies, with the aim of providing an on-going response to various issues in the field.  There is a broad yearly meeting with other people from the Banking Supervision Department, the Association of Banks, and the banking system, in order to get updates on the implementation of the Covenant and to discuss broad issues that require a response.

 

Expansion of the Covenant

 

A broad meeting recently took place with the participation of Supervisor of Banks Dr. Hedva Ber, Director General of the Association of Banks Moshe Perel, Bank Leumi CEO Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, Bank Discount CEO Lilach Asher-Topilsky, First International Bank CEO Smadar Berber-Tsadik, Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services National Supervisor for Family Violence Issues (Shelters and Half-way Houses) Michal Hanoch-Ahdut, shelter managers and contact people at the banks who are responsible for the implementation of the Covenant.  At the meeting, an update was provided regarding the expansion of the Covenant as follows:

 

1.   Creating an “Evaluation and maximization of financial rights” process – This is a series of leading questions that aim to help clarify focused and relevant details about the woman’s financial state as part of the initial intake process conducted when a woman first comes to the shelter.  It is a tool used as necessary that may strengthen the abilities of the banks and credit card companies to provide a rapid response that is as consistent as possible with the woman’s needs, in order to prevent a decline in her financial state and a worsening of any financial damage.

2.    Expanding the duration of the Covenant’s applicability – Most of the activity within the Covenant takes place during the women’s stay at the shelters, but due to the importance of creating continuity in the process of beginning financial independence, the financial institutions will continue supporting them through the Covenant for an additional year after they leave the shelter, or half a year after they leave a half-way house.  This expansion is the initiative of the “Women’s Spirit” organization that helps women as they leave the shelters.

3.   “Adopt-a-Shelter” program at the banks – With the aim of increasing financial awareness—of both the battered women in the shelters and half-way houses and the staff members at the shelters—the banks and credit card companies have decided to take it upon themselves within the Covenant to assist in the area of financial knowledge within the shelters.  Within this effort, there will be periodic lectures on various financial topics at times arranged between the shelter and the financial institution.​