The UK government has been urged to make split payments the default for Universal Credit, after figures showed the DWP system of split payments on request is severely limited, and could leave vulnerable people open to domestic abuse and financial control by abusive partners.
Figures have revealed that just 20 claimants were in receipt of split payments across the UK – despite almost 1.3 million claimants of Universal Credit, including 120,000 in Scotland.
Not one person in Scotland received a split payment of Universal Credit last year.
The DWP currently pays Universal Credit for couples into a single bank account, and current guidance stipulates that split payments are only available in very exceptional circumstances, despite domestic abuse being a common occurrence.
Women’s groups argue that the current system could isolate victims and make it financially difficult to leave abusive relationships, with 85% of domestic abuse survivors agreeing that a request for split payments could trigger more abuse, according to a report from Women’s Aid.
The Scottish Government has committed to introducing split payments but as Universal Credit is entirely reserved, needs the agreement of the DWP.
Shona Robison MSP said: “Financial abuse affects one in five women and the current system, of paying Universal Credit into one bank account per household, can make it easier for perpetrators of domestic and financial abuse to exert control over their victims and further endanger partners at risk.
“The concerning fact that just 20 claimants had Universal Credit paid into separate bank accounts last year – and shockingly, none in Scotland – simply shows the severe limitations of the system of split payments on request.
“It is yet another example that Universal Credit is deeply flawed system.
“It is unacceptable for the UK government to side-line this issue. With Tory welfare policy forcing people to food banks, reducing household finances and leading to increases in child poverty, something must change.
“With over 3 million people expected to migrate to Universal Credit over the coming years, it is vital that split payments become the default position.
“This will not only prevent abuse of vulnerable claimants, but will ensure that universal credit correctly reflects modern working life and gender equality principles.”
Disclaimer: This is a press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).