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Universal Credit (Payment Arrangements)

Volume 603: debated on Monday 7 December 2015

11. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of paying universal credit to households rather than individuals or women experiencing financial abuse. (902570)

For a minority of claimants, including women who may be victims of financial abuse, alternative payment arrangements can be made. We can split payments to members of the household, where necessary, under universal credit. Furthermore, jobcentre staff are trained to identify vulnerable claimants and can signpost individuals, at their request, to local domestic abuse support organisations for further help and support.

Research carried out earlier this year by the Trade Union Congress and Women’s Aid, “Unequal, Trapped and Controlled”, found that universal credit had far-reaching implications for women experiencing financial abuse and, in particular, that the single household payment could leave women and their children in financial hardship. Current arrangements could make it difficult for victims to declare the need for a single household payment for fear of their abuser finding out. Will the Secretary of State commit to asking all claimants automatically if they require an alternative payment arrangement, including the choice of paying their landlord directly, to ensure that women and children are protected from destitution and homelessness?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I think we all agree that there is no room for domestic violence or abuse in a civilised society in the 21st century. Advisers are well trained and look out for victims. They look at who has care and responsibility for children and, where appropriate, can split payments or make them more often than once a month—certainly they can be treated differently from those in normal circumstances.