The roll out of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reform Universal Credit was met with a dire prediction yesterday, after experts warned that it could pose a severe risk to victims of domestic abuse.
Professor Diane Elson, head of the UK Women’s Budget Group, told the Scottish Welfare Reform Committee that Universal Credit could take money away from abused women and hand it to their attackers.
Universal Credit is merging a number of existing benefits into one single monthly payment. However, the new benefit has been beset with long delays and problems with IT software.
Some experts claim that a potential £633m may be wasted before Universal Credit is fully rolled-out across the country.
When asked about the introduction of Universal Credit, Professor Diane Elson told the committee: “There are so many question marks about that.
“It’s clearly not going to be safe and secure for women at risk of abuse and abusive relationships.
“It’s not going to be secure for many women even if they’re not in abusive relationships, as money that they were getting in their hands moves away from them.”
She added that many households would be left arguing about how money should be spent, which will make it “much harder to budget”.
Responding to her comments, SNP MSP Kevin Stewart told the Daily Record: “Today’s evidence highlighted the worrying risks Universal Credit poses to women in abusive relationships.
“The Tories can’t be trusted to make decisions over welfare on Scotland’s behalf.”
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) added to the concerns raised by Professor Elson. The charity highlighted the tragic experience of a woman with four children fleeing from domestic abuse, who were later affected by the Tory benefit cap.
One of the children was receiving counselling because of the abuse they had witnessed. The “expensive” counselling cut into the family’s benefit payments, but were informed they were not entitled to any extra financial support because of the benefit cap.
The Tories are said to be considering reducing the benefit cap for families from £26,000 to £23,000 a year.