Thank you for contacting me about Universal Credit (UC) and the victims of domestic abuse.
We need a compassionate welfare system that can effectively support victims of domestic abuse. As much support as possible should be made available to those seeking help and refuge.
Colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) assure me that they work with claimants on an individual basis to provide the support that best fits with their individual circumstances. The Department has rolled out a significant training programme and introduced domestic abuse specialists in every Jobcentre. This ensures that Jobcentre staff have the right capability, tools and local relationships to support people who are experiencing or fleeing domestic abuse.
In 2018, the DWP updated its UC learning products to include additional information on domestic abuse, covering physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and financial abuse. Jobcentre staff undergo a comprehensive training program designed to equip them with the skills required to provide effective help for vulnerable claimants.
Please also be assured that once a claimant has been identified as suffering domestic abuse my colleagues in DWP recognise how important it is to provide them with the space and time needed to begin to stabilise their lives. For this reason, DWP officers can switch off the work related conditionality, initially for 13 weeks which can be extended to 26 weeks or beyond.
Alternative Payment Arrangements
Claimants who are currently suffering domestic abuse, or have previously suffered domestic abuse, can apply for Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs). APAs can include paying the housing costs element of UC as a Managed Payment direct to a landlord, more frequent payments, and split payment of an award between partners.
While most couples can and want to manage their finances jointly, there are circumstances in which split payments are appropriate. Where this is the case, split payments are available on request. Both members of a couple do not need to be present to arrange a split payment and consent is not required from the other partner to authorise a split payment. Claimants can request a split payment during a face to face meeting, a phone call, or online via their journal, and do not have to provide evidence of abuse in order to be granted a split payment. The reason a split payment is requested is never disclosed.
Universal Credit provides support when claimants are temporarily absent from home through fear of violence, including those who have suffered domestic abuse. If a claimant flees their home DWP can continue to provide support with their housing costs for the home the claimant has fled, as long as the claimant intends to return home when it is safe to do so. If a claimant takes a short term tenancy, Universal Credit can continue to provide support for both the former home and the short term tenancy, as long as the claimant intends to return to their former home when safe to do so. Housing Benefit paid to those in refuges is disregarded from the benefit cap calculation, providing extra support.
I hope this assures you of the support available for victims of domestic abuse and violence. I will, of course, continue to support improvements wherever they can be made.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP