Single Universal Credit payments ‘a backward step’ in tackling domestic abuse, say MPs
An influential group of MPs has urged the UK Government to scrap new Universal Credit rules which they claim make it harder for victims of domestic violence to leave abusive relationships.
The home affairs select committee said single household payments under Universal Credit are a “retrograde and backward step” in efforts to tackle domestic abuse, with 90 women now being turned away from refuges each day, and called for split payments for couples to be the standard instead.
In a report into a forthcoming Bill on domestic abuse, the committee welcomed the government’s plans to include economic abuse in the statutory definition of domestic abuse but concluded that some of the government’s welfare reforms were making it even more difficult for women to leave their abusers or to establish financial independence and avoid economic abuse.
The default single household payment for Universal Credit should instead be split for all couples in England and Wales, in line with the approach taken in Scotland, the report added.
The committee also called on the government to increase funding for domestic violence refuges, set up a new register of stalkers and investigate the introduction of “domestic abuse leave”.
Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, said the government was missing an opportunity to tackle domestic violence by not scrapping the payments.
Ms Cooper MP added: “Rightly the government has recognised the serious problem of economic abuse. But Universal Credit is making it much harder for women to maintain financial independence or to leave abusive relationships and the government’s insistence on a single household payment is a serious retrograde step.
“Separate family payments to ensure some independent income for the parent at home caring for children have been a feature of the welfare system ever since the introduction of Family Allowance for very good reason, and they are still part of the Scottish system today. If the government is serious about tackling economic abuse, it needs to urgently rethink.”