A report by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee claims that women and children in abusive relationships are at risk due to the payment system used by the Universal Credit scheme. The scheme, which has been gradually extended across the UK since 2015, normally allows for Universal Credit payments to be paid to only one person per household. This often leaves abuse victims and their children dependent on their abuser for their financial wellbeing, as well as increasing the psychological control they can exert.
While support teams are available in all Jobcentres to help victims of abuse or controlling behaviour, the report states that granting split payments to individual partners is only offered in exceptional circumstances.
Frank Field, the Labour MP Chairing the committee said:
“This is not the 1950s. Men and women work independently, pay taxes as individuals, and should each have an independent income. Not only does UC’s single household payment bear no relation to the world of work, it is out of step with modern life and turns back the clock on decades of hard-won equality for women.”
The report concludes with a list of eighteen recommendations for the government to consider when it publishes its proposals for a draft Domestic Abuse Bill. Among these it advocates defining this economic exploitation as another form of domestic abuse, and says that obtaining split Universal Credit payments should be made much easier. There should be additional training for all Work Coaches employed in Jobcentres, to enable them to identify from claimants all forms of abuse, including financial and psychological abuse. Work Coaches must also be able to suggest the appropriate support for victims of abuse and have access to professional welfare providers.
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To read the Work and Pensions Committee report in full go to: Universal Credit and domestic abuse