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Domestic abuse risk under Universal Credit

The Work and Pensions Committee warns that single household payments of Universal Credit could put claimants living with domestic abuse at risk of harm.

The Committee says that the Government must ensure its wider determination to tackle domestic abuse is reflected and embedded across all Departments, with policies that encourage equality and deter abuse.

Accountability for domestic abuse obviously lies squarely with the perpetrator, but the Committee says DWP has a moral duty to ensure the benefit system does not in any way facilitate abuse. The Committee heard evidence that, for a minority of claimants, single household payments of Universal Credit can make it easier for perpetrators to abuse and control their victims.

At one stroke, single payments allow perpetrators to take charge of potentially the entire household budget, leaving survivors and their children dependent on the abusive partner for all of their basic needs. As one survivor with children put it: “He’ll wake up one morning with £1500 in his account and piss off with it, leaving us with nothing for weeks.”

The Committee says that the Department must give serious consideration to any policies that might offer some protection to survivors of abuse and deliver fairer payments to households. This includes splitting Universal Credit payment by default. The Scottish Government is already making arrangements to introduce split payments by default, but its ability to do this depends on DWP adapting Universal Credit's systems to accommodate them.

Read Work and Pensions Committee - Universal Credit and domestic abuse