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Domestic Violence

Volume 593: debated on Thursday 26 February 2015

4. What assessment she has made of the effects on employed women who are victims of domestic violence of means-testing when they attempt to access a refuge. (907731)

Employed people entering refuge accommodation can claim help with their housing costs through housing benefit, which is both an in-work and out-of-work benefit. When paid to claimants who are in work, it is calculated on the basis of their earnings. The Government have provided £6.5 billion in housing-related support over this spending review period so that when someone enters a refuge the support element of the provision will not be means-tested.

Does the Minister agree that the safety of women suffering domestic violence ought to be prioritised over their ability to access funds at a time of personal crisis? If so, will she support my call for means testing to include an assessment of the economic impact of abusive and controlling relationships?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has done a lot of work with the charity My Sister’s Place, based in his constituency, and I agree that at a time of personal crisis the first thing refuges do—this will be the case for most of the refuges I have spoken to—is offer security, not ask how somebody will pay. He will have seen the ministerial letter to My Sister’s Place making it clear that where a victim of domestic violence takes up temporary accommodation, while also making arrangements to return to their home, housing benefit for both properties can be payable. Discretionary housing payment is also available.

The Berkshire women’s refuge serves my constituency incredibly well. We all abhor domestic violence, particularly towards women, so does my right hon. Friend, like me, welcome the victim surcharge, which ensures that those who commit these acts contribute to making reparations?

I absolutely welcome the victim surcharge, which results in important payments being made. I am sure that he will also want to welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government just before Christmas of an extra £10 million to secure refuge accommodation for the next two years.