Is Universal Credit failing victims of domestic abuse?

Grimsby MP Melanie Onn says Universal Credit could be failing victims of domestic abuse and leaving them dependent on their abuser due to the single household payment scheme.

Ms Onn made the comments as the head of Public and Commercial Services Union has written to the chair of the Commons’ work and pensions committee saying that Jobcentre Plus Staff are not receiving sufficient enough training to help victims of domestic abuse to navigate the Universal Credit system.

Under Universal Credit, if a couple is looking to seek a claim they must do so under one household, with a lump sum being paid into one of the partners' bank accounts or a joint one.

Concerns have been raised that Universal Credit could lead victims of domestic abuse dependent on their abuser

Because of this, concerns have been raised that partners in an abusive relationship could become "trapped" as the process for receiving a split payment of universal credit could put them in danger.

The person would have to explain to Jobcentre staff why they are seeking a split payment, and set up an entirely new bank account in order to receive the money, and in some cases may even have to find a new place to live.

The rent element of this split payment is also often paid directly to a landlord, meaning that a victim of domestic abuse could be potentially tied to the household they are living in and struggle to leave.

The PCS Union said: "For claimants still in the household experiencing financial controlling abuse, a split payment of UC is not necessarily helpful or indeed realistic or safe to implement.

"The claimant would need to be able to 'explain' the reason for a split payment to the abusive partner, and would need to set up their own bank account - difficult in itself - in order to receive the money.

"A split payment of the UC personal allowance element also causes any UC rent element to be paid directly to the landlord, which potentially ties the claimant to the household further."

The PCS Union has said that a survey of their members found that they believed they were not fully trained to handle cases of domestic abuse in their claimants

The union has also highlighted a recent survey carried out amongst their members that reported that they had received "very little training" and those that did felt that the training lacked detail and was "very short".

The survey also found that 68 per cent of respondents did not feel that their work was giving people on Universal Credit "the tools to help them transform their lives", which has been the government's mantra about the service.

One of the most significant findings of the survey was that nearly 80 per cent of the respondents to the survey felt that there were not sufficient staff to manage workloads.

Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee expressed his concern that "another disturbing front is opening up" as Universal Credit is rolled out across the country, because Jobcentre staff are "unprepared to deal with the most vulnerable claimants".

The single household payment system in Universal Credit could "lead domestic abuse victims to become dependent on their abuser"

He said: "Another disturbing front is opening up in the implementation of the Government's flagship welfare reform policy Universal Credit.

"Up until now, the focus has been on how brutally some constituents are treated once they are pushed on to Universal Credit.

"Now we have the views from the other side of the counter, of those civil servants who try loyally to carry out the Government's wishes.

"The lack of training and expertise at the front line is a thread running through all of our benefits inquiries, and now it is becoming apparent to the public how this is leaving them unprepared to deal with the most vulnerable claimants."

Melanie Onn MP for Grimsby, says the government was warned repeatedly about the threat of single household payments to domestic abuse victims

Labour MP Ms Onn says that the government had been "repeatedly warned" about the dangers the single household payment could pose to victims of domestic abuse, feeling that it can leave them "dependent on their abuser".

She said: “These reports are very concerning – Jobcentre staff need training if they’re going to be in a position to aid vulnerable women and do their jobs properly as they would want.

“The government has been warned repeatedly that the feature of Universal Credit, where it is paid into one account for a household, poses a risk to domestic abuse victims. Financial abuse is all too commonplace – and removing a person’s ability to have control of their own money can leave them dependent on an abuser.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Abuse in any form is completely unacceptable and that is why we make sure all our staff are well trained and supported to help vulnerable people.

“We have specialist teams in every Jobcentre including those who can support victims of domestic violence and 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.

“Previous legacy benefits were also paid to one account and there’s no evidence that paying into one account increases the risk of domestic violence.”

Source

https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/universal-credit-failing-victims-domestic-1624197

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