Report recognises risk Universal Credit single payments pose to victims of domestic abuse


Refuge applauds the Work and Pensions Committee for its strong report and recommendations on Universal Credit and Domestic Abuse.

“We are hugely encouraged that the Committee has recognised Refuge’s argument that single Universal Credit payments represent a real risk for survivors of abuse. We now urge the Government to follow through and make the necessary amendments to protect women and their children from economic abuse,” said Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge.

“It is essential that the system does not roll back years of hard-won women’s equality, limiting their financial independence by handing the purse-strings to the ‘man of the house’ and putting women and children at risk.”

Refuge has been campaigning for Universal Credit to be amended so that split payments are the default option for all households and will continue to do so.

We welcome the Committee’s call for significant changes to the design and operation of Universal Credit and its recommendation that the Department of Work and Pensions work with the Scottish Government – which is introducing separate payments by default – to learn how these could be implemented across the whole of the UK.

However, we urge Whitehall to then move swiftly to bring in such changes.

In the short-term making the Universal Credit payment to the main carer, when there are dependent children, will help some survivors of abuse. Refuge frontline staff have encountered numerous cases in which a perpetrator of abuse has had Universal Credit paid into his bank account and then used this money as a tool of coercive control. Some women disclosed to staff that they have had to beg their partner for money to feed their children. One survivor reported that she had not been allowed to handle any money since her benefits had transitioned over to Universal Credit.

Earlier this year, Refuge staff gave both oral and written evidence to the inquiry, highlighting the risk that single payments under Universal Credit represent to victims of abuse. In our experience, by potentially depriving them of finances, the single monthly payment model also increases barriers to women leaving their abusers.

In 2015, in partnership with the Cooperative bank, Refuge published ‘Money Matters’, the largest study into economic abuse in the UK. The study found that one in five women and one in seven men have experienced financial abuse in either a current or past relationship.

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