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SNP MP and Westminster Health spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford has said that her Private Members Bill would address one of the major problems of the current Universal Credit roll out, namely the UK government’s insistence on single payments which put ‘vulnerable women and children in danger’.

Dr Whitford’s ‘Universal Credit (Application, Advice Assistance) Bill’ – published today – is aimed at protecting women from financial abuse through the introduction of routine split payments.

Universal Credit, the Tories flagship Welfare policy is – as a rule – only paid into one bank account per recipient household and there are real concerns this could keep women, and to a lesser extent men, trapped in abusive relationships.

In addition, paying the combined benefits of a couple into a single bank account could prevent funds reaching their intended beneficiaries, such as partners and children.

Philippa Whitford’s Bill would also compel the UK Government to carry out detailed equality impact assessments of some of their Welfare changes; something they have failed to do thus far despite research showing women have borne the brunt of 86% of their cuts.

SNP launch campaign against tax credits ‘rape clause’. Photo Credit: SNP/Alison Thewliss MP.

Dr Philippa Whitford MP said: “Quite fittingly, my Bill is published on the eve of International Women’s Day. It is astonishing that women in the UK may be having to choose between poverty and abuse because of Tory welfare policy.

“The UK Government claim their ‘Alternative Payment Arrangements,’ which allow abused partners to apply for split payments in exceptional circumstances, deals with this issue but few women are aware of this option and 85% of domestic abuse survivors who spoke to the charity Women’s Aid said that the act of applying for split payments would anger their partner and make the abuse worse.

“Financial dependence and control isolates women from their friends, family and support networks, so I am calling on the UK Government to make split payments the default.

“The Tories should not persist with policies which put vulnerable women and children in danger, making it easier for them to be financially deprived or abused when a simple amendment could provide protection instead.

“My Bill would help right that wrong and end the terrible choices some women are forced to make because of this government’s insidious welfare policies.’’