Monday, October 14, 2019

Universal Credit: women forced to choose between poverty and abuse

SNP Health spokesperson at Westminster Dr Philippa Whitford, has launched an on-line petition to address one of the major problems of the current Universal Credit (UC) roll out – namely the UK government’s insistence on payments to a single household bank account, which ‘makes women more financially vulnerable’.

In PMQs today Dr Whitford asked about ending the practice – still part of the Universal Credit roll out. As it stands UC 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.

Today, in evidence to the DWP Select committee on Universal credit and Economic Abuse, Refuge reiterated the need for split Universal Credit payments to be the default.

In her question Dr Whitford asked the prime minister: ‘’I welcome the prime minister’s consultation on Domestic Abuse and particularly the recognition of Financial Abuse, yet the Government insist on paying Universal Credit into one household account, making women more financially vulnerable.

‘’85% of Abuse survivors say they wouldn’t have dared request split payments as a special measure, as it would have worsened the abuse, so will the Prime Minister listen to the call of Women’s Charities to make split payments of Universal Credit the norm?’’

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Dr Philippa Whitford MP commented: ‘’While I welcome the Government’s consultation on domestic abuse, it is undermined by their own policies.

“It is a total disgrace that the Tories are simply ignoring a problem that could be easily fixed – and would make such a difference if it was. This part of the shambolic and callous Universal Credit roll out is putting vulnerable women and children in danger.

‘’Charities such as Women’s Aid, Surviving Economic Abuse, Women’s Budget Group and CPAG have been calling for split payments and support my Private Member’s Bill which is seeking this reform of Universal Credit.

“I am launching an online Westminster petition ( see below ) and would encourage people to sign this, and to feed into the Government’s Domestic Abuse consultation, to ensure that we can finally get movement from the Tory Government on this issue.

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

“The UK Government keep claiming claim their ‘Alternative Payment Arrangements,’ which allow abused partners to apply for split payments in exceptional circumstances, deals with this issue but 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.

“The prime minister should right this wrong and end the terrible choice some women are forced to make, between poverty and abuse!’

The petition can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/217450

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