More than 1,000 victims of modern slavery and human trafficking have been helped to gain financial independence with access to a bank account, according to HSBC UK.
The bank’s survivor bank service was launched in June 2019 and provides access to a basic bank account, without the need for photo ID or proof of address.
Having a bank account makes it easier to claim benefits, receive wages and pay rent. But many survivors lack the documents they need to open an account, such as a passport.
People can open an account when supported by a caseworker from an organisation which can verify their identity, with the Salvation Army and other charities supporting the scheme.
HSBC UK said that among the people it has supported, a woman, originally from Albania, was studying at university before she became a victim of sexual exploitation. She is now receiving specialist support in a safe house.
She said: “A bank account feels personal, something that is mine to keep where I can save money and use the card to spend on things I like. It is something I know I will need and will be very helpful in my future so I would like to thank HSBC UK for making this possible.”
Maxine Pritchard, head of financial inclusion and vulnerability at HSBC UK said: “It is a tragedy that people who have escaped their traffickers can face such a struggle to gain financial independence. Even that first step of walking into a bank can be very challenging – not knowing who you can trust, who is genuinely going to help you and that fear of being quizzed over documentation.
“We set up survivor bank to help break down those barriers and I’m pleased that we can assist charities in providing the support that survivors desperately need.”
Minister for Safeguarding Victoria Atkins said: “HSBC UK’s survivor bank initiative provides victims with a vital tool to regain their financial independence by setting up their own bank accounts.
“It is fantastic to hear that over a thousand people have now been helped by this invaluable scheme. This is a great example of how businesses can help protect the most vulnerable as part of their business model.”
Ann-Marie Douglas, the Salvation Army’s contract director for the modern slavery victim care contract, said: “The survivor bank is a financial innovation at the heart of the Salvation Army’s mission.”
She added: “We have been delighted to work with HSBC UK to improve access to banking for people who have been marginalised and denied markers or status that most people would take for granted. It opens up new possibilities and gives people choices on how and where they spend their money.
“For a survivor of modern slavery, opening a bank account delivers more than just practical assistance to gain independence and integrate into society, it is also a symbol of recovery and hope for the future.”