Refuge outlines concerns about scrapping Universal Credit uplift.

 
Refuge issues stark warning to the government and outlines fears that scrapping the £20 uplift to Universal Credit will have a damaging impact on survivors of domestic abuse.

Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic services, and sole provider of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline has issued a warning over fears scrapping the £20 Universal Credit uplift will have a damaging effect on women experiencing domestic abuse. Currently the government are set to scrap the uplift on Wednesday 6th October.  

37.32% of survivors Refuge supported across all its services from 1st September 2019 – 31st August 2020 were receiving Universal Credit. This rose to 63.23% for survivors who accessed emergency Refuge accommodation, with Universal Credit being a lifeline for the majority of women who needed to flee abuse.

Further research from Refuge into the impact for survivors living on Universal Credit throughout the pandemic, shows that more women were forced to rely on benefits during Covid-19, at a time when calls and contacts to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline rose by 61% previous to the demand prior to March 2020.

Rachel* a migrant survivor of domestic abuse, who experienced economic abuse and was originally locked out of specialist services as she had ‘no recourse to public funds’ but is now receiving Universal Credit, said: 

“As a survivor of domestic abuse, I know that financial independence is often crucial when fleeing an abusive relationship and attempting to reach safety. However, as a condition of my spousal visa, I was subjected to the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) rule, and therefore barred from accessing benefits or housing support when leaving my former partner.  

Like many migrant survivors, I was completely alone— it all felt so cruel and inhumane. I ended up applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK on the domestic violence route. But despite the economic abuse I’d experienced, the Home Office did not consider this when determining my eligibility for legal aid and/or a fee waiver, and the application exhausted my finances. 

Following approval of my immigration application, my NRPF condition was lifted, and I was finally able to apply for Universal Credit. But even with the existing £20/week uplift, Universal Credit is still not enough to live on. For me, £20 a week is what I currently spend on food, so I’m struggling to work out what else I could cut as the rest of my benefit goes toward rent and essential utilities.  

If the government scraps the Universal Credit uplift, I know that it will have devastating consequences for survivors of abuse, many of whom will be trapped with their abusers and unable to flee as a result.” 

*Name changed to protect identity. 

Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive Officer, said:

“Refuge is extremely concerned about the end of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, and we urge the government to rethink. Whilst we acknowledge the government originally introduced this as a ‘temporary measure’ during the first Covid-19 lockdown, this last year has shown us how vital this payment is. It is a lifeline for many survivors of domestic abuse.  

Refuge has seen a surge in cases of domestic abuse in the last 18 months and Universal Credit is a lifeline for survivors who are trying to rebuild their lives, and flee abuse, often at a huge emotional and financial cost. We have concerns scrapping the £20 uplift will push already vulnerable women and children further into poverty and worryingly may mean some women have to make the difficult choice between staying with an abusive partner or being unable to provide for themselves and their children.  

Prior to the pandemic Refuge raised concerns about the safety of women on Universal Credit, who are already struggling to make ends meet, often reliant on food banks to feed themselves and their children. Refuge calls on the government to keep the £20 uplift and for fundamental welfare reform to improve the lives of the most vulnerable, including survivors of domestic abuse.”

Interviews available on request. Please contact the Press Office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.

About Refuge:

Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.