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UC Payments At Risk Of Being Used By Abusive Partners, Warn MPs

August 1, 2018

MPs have called for an overhaul of the way universal credit is paid, to minimise the risk of it being used by domestic abusers as a way of exerting financial control over their partners.

A work and pensions select committee inquiry report says the current default policy of a single monthly payment per household risks the entire family income – including money meant for children – going into the abusive partner’s bank account.

“That risks them [the abused partner] remaining dependent on their abusive partner and making it harder for them to leave, should the opportunity present itself,” the report concludes.

Experts told the committee during its inquiry that the switch to single household payments increased the risk of women being bullied by their partners.

The report cites a survivor of domestic abuse who told the committee of the potential risks of single household payments: “He [the abusive partner] will wake up one morning with £1,500 in his account and piss off with it, leaving us with nothing for weeks.”

Universal credit rolls six working-age benefits into a single monthly payment with the aim of simplifying the social security system. However, MPs heard that this “de-labelled” payments, such as child tax credits, that were previously earmarked for children, and paid to the main carer, normally the mother.

MPs said ministers should consider splitting the payments between the two adults on a routine basis, not just to prevent abuse, but to ensure universal credit properly reflected modern working life and gender equality principles.

Frank Field, the committee chair, 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 universal credit’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 government must acknowledge the increased risk of harm to claimants living with domestic abuse it creates by breaching that basic principle, and take the necessary steps to reduce it.”

The report accepts that switching to a default dual-payment system will be complicated, especially as it is unclear whether the much-criticised universal credit IT system would be able to cope. Nor could such a change guarantee to prevent domestic abuse.

But it says ministers have a moral duty to ensure the benefits system does not facilitate abuse and that the Department for Work and Pensions must seriously consider any changes which might offer some protection, albeit limited, to survivors of abuse.

The Scottish government has passed legislation that would require the DWP there to introduce split payments by default. The report says DWP ministers in England should support and learn from Scottish trials of dual payments.

The Tory MP Heidi Allen, a member of the select committee, said: “One of the key improvements of universal credit over legacy benefit systems is the way it seeks to proactively support individuals. So it can’t be right that payments are made by default as a single block to a household.

“In the 21st century, women deserve to be treated as independent citizens, with their own aspirations, responsibilities and challenges.”

The report called for domestic abuse specialists to be introduced into every jobcentre, along with the provision of private rooms to enable privacy for claimants to discuss sensitive issues.

A government spokesperson said: “We have specialist teams in every jobcentre who can support victims of domestic violence. Staff do everything they can to make sure people fleeing domestic abuse get the help they need as quickly as possible. That includes enabling urgent payments to be made for collection within two to three hours and transferring a person’s claim to a different jobcentre.

“The vast majority of jobcentres have private interview facilities. In the small number of offices where these aren’t available we can make arrangements for people to visit other jobcentres that do have private rooms, or arrange a home visit where appropriate. We are also continuing work to look at how we can improve universal support further, to provide assistance for managing finances.

“For those who require additional support, split payments are available. However, it is important to note that previous legacy benefits were also paid to one account and as the report recognises, split payments cannot be the solution to what is a criminal act.”

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2018 10:58 am

    Oh dear they still don’t get it uc doesn’t work
    It’s a stick to beat the claimants with get rid of
    It return us to sanity

    • August 1, 2018 3:26 pm

      UC does work… The way that they *want* it to work.

      DWP and UK Government / Public sector ARE the Abusing Hate Criminal, Torturing, Murdering Filth.

  2. August 1, 2018 11:23 am

    Unless split payments happen as default it will be a
    Marker that abusive partners will know something as been said so putting them in more danger 😢😡. The split payments need to be the norm or there is
    a real risk an abusive artnet will pick up on this that partner as requested
    Split payments .

  3. August 1, 2018 1:34 pm

    I agree I used my family allowance to escape my partner

  4. August 1, 2018 1:34 pm

    I agree I used my family allowance to escape my partner

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