Report warns of Domestic Abuse risk posed by Universal Credit but does it go far enough? Plus Male victims get no mention
A report by Work and Pensions Committee has warned that the way Universal Credit is paid per household means abusers could take control of the entire budget, leaving vulnerable victims and their children dependent on an abusive partner to survive. Whilst it’s as start I don’t think that this report goes far enough.
The report is a very good start in trying to force the Department for Work and Pensions – DWP to make changes to the way they treat victims of domestic abuse. As I have previously written the rules that they enforce on victims are unacceptable.
Split payments must be easier to request
The report concentrates on the single payment system that Universal Credit uses. This means that if you are a couple only one person gets the payment leaving the other at risk of financial dependence. This in turn makes it harder for any victim to leave their abuser.
Split payments are available but it is not easy to get one. First the victim must prove that they are a victim of domestic abuse by getting evidence from a professional such as a social worker or police officer.
Then and only then will a staff member at a jobcentre consider whether a split payment is justified.
The report said: “Universal credit currently only allows claims to be split between partners in exceptional circumstances.
“DWP itself recognises the risk that requesting such an arrangement poses to survivors. The perpetrator will realise the survivor has requested the split when their own payments fall, potentially putting them in great danger.
“In light of this risk, many survivors simply will not request a split.”
Staff not trained to deal with victims
The head of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) Mark Serwotka has previously warned that Jobcentre staff are not receiving any training on how to help and assist victims of
This was raised in the report and they recommended Jobcentres have private rooms for vulnerable claimants and appoint a domestic violence specialist to deal with specific claims.
I can only hope that the government introduce this in haste.
DWP Comment well Lie
A DWP spokesperson said it takes tackling domestic abuse “incredibly seriously” and said “teams were in place to support victims at every job centre“. I know this is an out and out LIE. Coverage of trained advisors is patchy across the UK.
For once could they not just accept the report and implement it? No of course not
Report and MP’s cite female victims but don’t mention male ones
As a victim of domestic abuse this really grinds my gears. I fully accept that women are victims in most cases.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2.8% of men – 500,000 individuals – suffered partner abuse in 2014/15.
While it’s important to state that more women than men suffer domestic abuse in Britain (4.5m women versus 2.2m men over the age of 16, according to the ONS), there remains a theory that men under report their experiences due to a culture of masculine expectations.
The way that this report has been compiled it makes absolutely no mention about male victims.
This is disappointing to me but not unexpected. When I was abused the jobcentre staff found it difficult to comprehend.
Tory MP Heidi Allen, who sits on the Work and Pensions Committee said; “In the 21st Century women deserve to be treated as independent citizens, with their own aspirations, responsibilities and challenges.”
Labour MP and Committee Chairman Frank Field said “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.”
It is true that in modern society the rights of women must be protected. The single payment system is in my opinion outdated yes but so is assuming that women are victims and men are not.
Still more work to do
While the report is a good start there is still much work that needs to be done. Removing the requirement of providing proof before victims are helped must happen.
More importantly the rule that victims are only allowed help once per 12 months MUST end. Many victims return to their abuser once so this rule then risks trapping them in a dangerous environment.
We must all make sure that we let the DWP and government know that this unacceptable.
- women can call 0808 2000 247, the free 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge
- men can call the Men’s Advice Line free on 0808 801 0327 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) or ManKind on 01823 334 244
Remember it is not your fault and you do not need to suffer in silence.
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