The Work and Pensions Select Committee ask the Government to look at the evidence after women’s groups raise concerns about link to domestic abuse.
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs speaks about Universal Credit on BBC Breakfast
The Work and Pensions Select Committee report into Universal Credit and Domestic Abuse highlights an issue facing too many women. There is a real risk that the roll-out of Universal Credit, which combines most benefits into one single payment, could be exploited by abusive and controlling partners.
MPs want the Government to look again at the evidence and support the Scottish government to pilot different models of split payments within a clear timetable. Women’s groups believe it’s vital that the Government listens to these real concerns and pauses the roll-out of Universal Credit.
Our Founder and Director, Nicola Sharp-Jeffs responds:
“Each member of a couple should be allowed to nominate their own bank account so that separate payments can be made as a matter of routine, not split payments as an exception. Ideally individuals should have access to an independent income. The system needs to reflect a society in which men and women work independently and pay taxes as individuals.
“Domestic abuse is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. If women do not have economic equality then Government is setting the scene for abuse.
“We welcome the recommendation that the Government should engage positively and quickly with the Scottish Government to support and regulate the roll out of separate payments to each member of a couple. It is right that how the award is separated in practice should be explored and evaluated but we believe the case for separate payments for the rest of the UK has already been made.”
Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group said: “Combining payments for housing, job seeking and children, that have to date been separate, risks giving abusive men even more power and control over their partners. It may send more money than ever straight to the wallet and not to the purse, undermining women’s economic independence and their ability to leave abusive relationships. We call on the Westminster to follow the lead of the Scottish Government and allow for separate payments as a matter of course.”
Rachel Krys, Co-Director of the End. Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “Paying all of a family’s income to an abuser creates a new barrier to seeking safety and change. This Government says it is committed to changing the response to domestic violence across the board and is planning new legislation. However few survivors currently feel confident to disclose abuse to DWP staff and it’s vital that Jobcentres work closely with domestic abuse specialists to ensure the right support is in place for claimants disclosing abuse.
“We welcome the recommendation that where there are children in the home, UC payments should go to the main carer, other than in exceptional circumstances. But we urge the Government to pause the roll out of UC whilst it looks urgently at the evidence in this report.”
Speaking from her own experience, Domestic Abuse survivor, *Doris* (not her real name) says: “Even today, there is very little recognition of Economic Abuse and the long-term impact it can have. I can’t explain what it’s like, to be so powerless. It’s overwhelming. Not being able to provide for your children, relying on someone else. We didn’t talk about it – there was just an acceptance that he was the man of the house and had control of the finances.”
Doris suffered economic abuse under the old benefits system and eventually managed to escape and build a new life. But she says she would welcome any change to UC that would protect vulnerable people from economic abuse.
She continues, “Universal Credit is not fit for purpose. It’s overly complex and doesn’t take into account women like myself who don’t have access to their own money.”
Women’s Budget Group, Surviving Economic Abuse and The End Violence Against Women Coalition published a report in June on the Links between Universal Credit and Economic Abuse.
The women’s groups will meet cross-party MP’s to discuss reforms to universal Credit for women experiencing domestic violence at a parliamentary event this autumn.
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