An SNP MP is calling on the UK government to urgently reform Universal Credit, after a new report intensified fears that the current system risks increasing women’s vulnerability to domestic abuse.
Dr Philippa Whitford MP, SNP Health spokesperson, is urging the UK government to introduce split payments to ensure Universal Credit is paid to individuals, rather than a single household bank account, which the MP says makes it easier for perpetrators of domestic abuse to exert financial control – leaving victims isolated and unable to leave an abusive relationship.
The MP for Central Ayrshire has introduced a bill to provide split payments. The Universal Credit (Application, Advice and Assistance) Bill 2017-19, has its second reading in November. Dr Whitford has renewed her calls on the UK government to support the Bill, after a new report today by The Women’s Budget Group, Surviving Economic Abuse, and the End Violence Against Women Coalition highlighted the damaging risks of the current system.
The report, ‘Universal Credit and Financial Abuse: Exploring the links’, calls on the UK government to explore different methods of making default split payments for the remaining roll out of Universal Credit, so the most effective split payment model can be applied.
It also urges the UK government to ensure non-means tested benefits such as Carers Allowance remain payable outside of Universal Credit, and to provide a safe space for women to disclose abuse when they are applying for benefits.
The Scottish Government say it supports the introduction of split payments in Scotland, and is in discussion with the UK Government Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to find the most effective way to reform the system.
Dr Philippa Whitford MP, SNP Health spokesperson, said: “The UK government must listen to the overwhelming evidence from women’s groups, and domestic abuse organisations, who are clear that Universal Credit needs urgent reform.
“The current system, of paying Universal Credit into one bank account per household, makes it easier for perpetrators of domestic abuse to exert complete financial control – leaving women isolated from friends and family, and unable to leave an abusive relationship due to lack of money.
“The SNP government supports the introduction of split payments, and is in discussion with the DWP to enable payments to be made to individuals rather than one household account – but domestic abuse and financial coercion is an issue that affects women across the UK, and the simplest and most effective way to resolve this flaw is for the UK government to reform the underlying system.
“As this important report from the Women’s Budget Group, Surviving Economic Abuse, and End Violence Against Women highlights, split payments are vital to giving women financial independence.
“It is disappointing that in 2018, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, such regressive policies are still being enforced in the UK.”