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Work and Pensions Committee urges Government action on Universal Credit split payments

Work and Pensions Committee calls for UC split payments action to address concerns over domestic abuse.

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The Work and Pensions Committee has published a report on Universal Credit and domestic abuse in which it urges the UK Government to take action to ensure that the single household payment used to pay Universal Credit does not become a weapon in the hands of domestic abusers. The Committee stressed that the Government must ensure its wider determination to tackle domestic abuse is reflected and embedded across all Departments, with policies that encourage equality and deter abuse.

Speaking of the report, Committee Chair Frank Field MP said:

“This is not the 1950s. Men and women work independently, pay taxes as individuals, and should each have an independent income. Not only does UC’s single household payment bear no relation to the world of work, it is out of step with modern life and turns back the clock on decades of hard won equality for women.

"The Government must acknowledge the increased risk of harm to claimants living with domestic abuse it creates by breaching that basic principle, and take the necessary steps to reduce it.”

Split payments were one of the UC flexibilities that were ceded to the Scottish Government as part of the devolution agreement An Enduring Settlement, and the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 required the Scottish Government to make split payments the default. Jeane Freeman MSP, when Minister for Social Security Committee, advised that the Scottish Government was highly dependent upon the DWP making significant changes to the IT system.

Commenting on the report, Jeremy Hewer, SFHA Policy Advisor said:

“We took the opportunity recently to meet with Kit Malthouse MP, when he was still Minister for Family, Support, Housing and Child Maintenance, and we had a very positive discussion on, amongst other things, the subject split payments, of which he was of the opinion that there would be challenges in their practical implementation.

"We argued that by establishing a set of business rules, an automated division of the UC payment between the parties should be no more onerous than any of the other considerations that go into calculation of UC entitlement.

"We look forward to continuing this dialogue, and promoting the best interests of housing associations and their tenants, with his successor, Justin Tomlinson MP, who I hope will be able to take forward our recommendations."