The early release of super during COVID-19 has resulted in a spike in financial abuse.
The early release of super during COVID-19 has resulted in a spike in financial abuse.

Abusive partners force lovers to access super early

Financial counsellors say the early release of superannuation scheme has resulted in cash-strapped partners forcing those close to them to withdraw their money early.

During the pandemic the Federal Government rolled out the scheme allowing Australians to access up to $20,000 tax free if they hit tough economic times.

Financial Counselling Australia's chief executive officer Fiona Guthrie said it was a concerning problem that has emerged during COVID-19.

"We have been getting reports of how the early release of super has opened up a frontier for people to financially abuse their partners," she said.

Financial Counselling Australia’s executive director Fiona Guthrie.
Financial Counselling Australia’s executive director Fiona Guthrie.

"People know you can get access to super early so they are forcing their partner to do that and use their money, it's shocking."

Since the scheme began in April more than 2.91 million applicants have accessed $36 billion in retirement savings. The scheme is due to end on December 31.

Ms Guthrie said other types of financial abuse that remain prevalent during the pandemic included a person forcing their partner to take on debts such as credit cards or loans in their partner's name and women being coerced into taking out debts that are of no use to them.

Ms Guthrie said in a recent case a woman was forced by her partner to buy a manual car despite the fact she was unable to drive a manual vehicle.

Latest figures showed the nation's unemployment rate at 6.9 per cent in September climbing from 6.8 per cent the previous month.

This does not include Australians receiving JobKeeper payments - about 900,000 businesses and 3.5 million Australians are receiving these payments.

Business development manager Julie Kun.
Business development manager Julie Kun.

Victorian-based family violence service WIRE's chief executive officer Julie Kun said they had seen a spike in family violence and financial abuse - the two are usually linked.

"We used to have about 40 per cent of our contacts around family violence and we are now finding it's about 60 per cent," she said.

"People are experiencing the abuse more intensely and for some there's increasing vulnerabilities because they may not have work which increases the impacts of that financial abuse."

Ms Kun said during the pandemic some partners had become more financially abusive because they were more desperate for money.

"We've seen an increase in adult children demanding money from their parents," she said.

"I'm repeatedly hearing lots of more reports from other organisations like ours relating to partners demanding their partners to access their super early."

Ms Kun said another common form of financial abuse was by partners who couldn't access JobKeeper or JobSeeker.

Ms Guthrie urged anyone suffering financial abuse to contact the free National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call 000.

For more on financial abuse please see special body+soul edition inside