21 December 2023

HSBC UK sees Winter Increase in Domestic abuse victims using Branch ‘Safe Spaces’

  • Threefold increase in usage of Safe Spaces at HSBC UK during winter months, with 46% of visits in January and November
  • 2.1 million people have experienced domestic abuse this year with two thirds of victims experiencing a form of financial abuse
  • Branch Safe Spaces provide users with access to a confidential phoneline to contact support services or talk to a friend or family member

Safe Spaces for people experiencing domestic abuse in all HSBC UK branches are seeing an increase in usage during the winter months including into the new year, with almost three times more visits than at other times of the year.

In 2023, the number of people using Safe Spaces increased significantly with nearly half (46%) of this year’s usage occuring in January and November. 1 Usage in November is also three times higher this year than in 2022 when the intitative first launched.

Sarah Russell, Local Director, South East Region and Safe Spaces Initiative lead said: “We recognise that the festive season, while happy for many, can also be a period of heightened stress and vulnerability. Whether you are a customer or not, our doors are open. Our trained staff are here to offer support, connect you with essential services, or simply provide a space where you can make a call in privacy.”

HSBC UK Safe Spaces are available during opening hours in all branch locations, with dedicated areas and confidential support available for all individuals, whether they are a customer of the bank or not., The bank provides access to a confidential phoneline to contact a support service or talk to a friend or family member.

Launched by the domestic abuse charity Hestia and its UK SAYS NO MORE campaign, HSBC UK joined its Safe Spaces scheme in April 2022.3 Since then over 200 people have used a HSBC UK safe space.1

An estimated 2.1 million people in the UK have experienced domestic abuse this year, with 66% of those cases experienced by women.4 Two-thirds (64%) of domestic abuse victims experience at least one form of financial abuse, where one individual exerts control over another’s access to economic resources.5

Sue Harper, Deputy Director of Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Prevention at Hestia, said: “Domestic abuse can happen at any time of year, but we know that the current cost of living crisis is putting extra pressure on families, and problems can be heightened over the holidays. Having access to a safe space on the high street where you can access advice, or contact a friend or loved one, is a lifesaver for many victims.”

Recent findings by the charity Surviving Economic Abuse found that 1 in 5 women in the UK have experienced some form of financial abuse in the past year alone.6

HSBC UK is currently the largest High St bank to offer the service with over 4,000 employees across all bank branches having had specialist training on Safe Spaces.

Jerry7 in his sixties was the first person to use a HSBC UK safe space having heard about it on the radio. Jerry had recently relocated to Southampton but was officially homeless having fled an abusive relationship.

He said: “I came into your branch in some what of a panic after leaving a violent relationship which I had endured for nearly three years. I only wish that you had set up your Safe Space a while ago. Learning about your initiative seemed to be some sort of fate. Thank you for your attention, efficiency and kindness.”

HSBC UK sees an average of two customer calls every day mentioning domestic or financial abuse, about a third of these are people looking to separate their joint finances. The bank adheres to the UK Finance financial abuse code of practise and supports customers to:

  • Open an account with a sort code that is non-traceable to a geographic location – HSBC UK was the first bank to do this
  • Separate joint accounts and remove additional cardholders to prevent any further abuse
  • Prevent perpetrators gaining access to the customer's funds by reducing their ATM limit, and putting an 'auto-decline for credit' marker on their account to prevent coerced debt
  • Appoint a trusted representative to deal with the finances on their behalf if they need additional support
  • Reset PIN and security details and change the address and method of communications
  • Report concerns to the Office of the Public Guardian where a Power of Attorney is the alleged abuser

Information on the support available for victims of domestic and financial abuse is available on the website.

HSBC UK customers experiencing domestic and financial abuse can use an online form to request a callback from the support team at a time when it’s safe to talk. The call will come from an unknown number and the customers will be asked if it’s safe to talk, if it isn’t the call will be ended.

To get in touch directly, call the main Customer Support line on 03457 404 404 (Mon–Sun, 8am–8pm).

Media enquiries to:

Becky Hume | 07387246305 | Becky.louise.hume@hsbc.com

Email: UKPressOffice@hsbc.co.uk

Note to editors:

1 Usage figures are from January to November 2023 – HSBC UK data

  • HSBC UK has an online form you can use to request a callback from the support team at a time when it’s safe for you to talk. The call will come from an unknown number. You will be asked if it’s safe for you to talk, and the call will be ended if you say no.
  • To get in touch directly, call the main Customer Support line on 03457 404 404 (Mon–Sun, 8am–8pm).
  • You can also chat directly through the app, or log in to online banking and look for the chat icon on the right hand side.
  • There is a specialist team you can contact if you are struggling to make debt repayments. Call 0345 850 0622 (Mon–Fri, 8am–6pm and Sat, 8am–4pm).

4 Source: Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

5 Source: Seen-yet-sidelined_SEA_2023.pdf (survivingeconomicabuse.org)

6 Source: https://survivingeconomicabuse.org/news/5-5-million-uk-women-experiencing-economic-abuse/

7 Not his real name


HSBC UK serves over 14.75 million customers across the UK, supported by 24,000 colleagues. HSBC UK offers a complete range of retail banking and wealth management to personal and private banking customers, as well as commercial banking for small to medium businesses and large corporates. HSBC UK is a ring fenced bank and wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc.

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of HSBC, is headquartered in London. HSBC serves customers worldwide from offices in 62 countries and territories. With assets of $3,021bn at 30 September 2023, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.

Hestia and Safe Spaces

At Hestia, we support adults and children in times of crisis. We deliver services across London and the Southeast, as well as advocating nationally on the issues that affect the people we work with. Last year we supported 19,450 men, women, and children. This includes families escaping domestic abuse, survivors of modern slavery and people with mental health difficulties.

Safe Spaces was developed as an initiative of Hestia’s UK Says No More campaign in response to the challenges faced by people experiencing domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown and their inability to access specialist support services. It was first launched in 2020 and is now available in over 6,500 pharmacies and banks across the UK.