Fears That Universal Credit ‘Enables’ Financial Abuse

A Commons Committee and Welsh Women’s Aid is calling for an end to single household Universal Credit payments, saying it enables abusive partners to control finances.

The new benefit system, that will affect up to 9 million people by 2023, makes monthly payments for all claimants in a household into just one bank account. This includes a housing element that was previously paid direct to landlords in the form of Housing Benefit. Campaigners say this means abusive partners can gain total financial control of those living with domestic abuse.

A House of Commons committee made up of MPs looking into the issue found that abusers “can take charge of the entire household budget, leaving survivors and their children dependent on the abusive partner for all of their basic needs.” It also described the need for the government to prevent this as a “moral duty”.

A spokeswoman for Welsh Womens Aid told Wales Online: “Women have told us about perpetrators withholding money and controlling the purchase of food, clothes and sanitary products, which impacts on their health, wellbeing, their confidence, and leaves them and their children with nothing other than a food bank to get by,”.

“Universal Credit single payments risk enabling financial abuse by increasing the control abusers have over finances.”

The DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) say that claimants who live with domestic abuse can ask for separate payments. This does not require agreement from both parties. The DWP also say staff are trained to spot people who may be at risk and offer support and information on support agencies in the local area.

Karen Perrier at Money Advice Plus in Eastbourne told Quids in!: “Disclosing that you are being abused can be difficult and traumatic, and a work coach could be someone the claimant doesn’t know at all. They may believe there is a real risk the abuser could find out and make things worse.

Men and women work independently and should each have access to their own income. Surviving Economic Abuse and Money Advice Plus (Domestic Abuse and Money Education Project) are calling for separate payments to be made as a matter of routine. Financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers to control household finances and make their partner dependent so that they do not have the resources they need to leave.”

Financial abuse is a common factor in abusive relationships. Two in five people (38%) who access support services said their money had been controlled by their partner, according to Welsh Women’s Aid.