Universal Credit and financial abuse: exploring the links
A new report from the Women’s Budget Group, End Violence Against Women Coalition and Surviving Economic Abuse.
As Universal Credit continues to roll out nationally, this new report raises concerns that Universal Credit payments which are paid into one bank account for everyone in the household, rather than individual accounts, risk giving more power to abusers in homes where women are domestic violence.
The report concludes that:
- The assumption that benefit paid to one account will be shared ignores evidence about financial abuse. Research shows different forms of money management can be practised within households, from pooling all income to one giving the other an allowance. Women often go without basic essentials themselves, especially where there are children and under male-controlled money management.
- Single payments will mean that main carers (usually in practice mothers) may lose clearly-labelled child payments, which are often paid separately and can provide a lifeline to survivors.
- Financial abuse is one aspect of economic abuse, which often occurs alongside other types of abuse such as psychological and physical. As with domestic abuse, financial abuse affects women more than men, lasts for longer and can continue post-separation. Financial abuse is not always recognised (by the survivor or by agencies) but has been a feature of successful prosecutions of controlling or coercive behaviour. The consequences of financial abuse include the survivor not being able to afford to leave an abusive partner.
The report makes a number of recommendations including:
- Exploring different methods of making default single payments for the remaining roll out of Universal Credit so the most effective single payment model can be applied;
- Ensuring non-means tested benefits such as Carers Allowance remain payable outside of Universal Credit;
- Provide a safe space for women to disclose abuse when they are applying for benefits;
- Make more training on domestic abuse available for those working on the application and administration of Universal Credit such as Job centre staff;
- End the two child benefit cap, which has led to the infamous ‘rape clause’
- Consider stripping out payments for children in Universal Credit and making them non-means-tested (perhaps as an increase to Child Benefit), and return to payment to the person mainly responsible for the care of the children