In February 2019 the Government updated the guidance on Universal Credit for those who have been the victim of domestic abuse and what support is available to them.
The guidance begins with a definition of what constitutes domestic abuse, but not limited to:-
The document then sets out what additional support is available to those who have fled a domestic abusive relationship.
Those benefits include:-
No work related requirement for 13 weeks (subject to meeting certain criteria), extended to 26 weeks for the main carer of a child up to 16 years of age
Additional Universal Credit payments for a third or subsequent child who may have been conceived either as a result of a non-consensual act or conceived around the time the relationship was controlling or abusive.
Accommodation such as refuges, hostels and managed properties will not be included within the calculation of the benefits cap
The spare room subsidy will not be applied to any person with a spare room living in one of the above named properties
Discretionary Housing payments to those who meet the criteria, including families fleeing domestic abuse
Migrant partner support for those who have entered the UK on a family visa who have experienced domestic abuse
Waiver of Child Maintenance Fee
Whilst all of this is positive in helping those and their families who have suffered domestic abuse, the Department of Work and Pensions has been criticised.
In order to qualify for any of the above benefits, there is a requirement of written evidence from a person acting in an official capacity to confirm the domestic abuse. This means that it is necessary for the abuse to have been reported to a professional. Therefore if a person has simply fled an abusive relationship and not sought assistance they would be unable to qualify for any of the above benefits.
There is further criticism of the Universal Credit scheme, as it stands one payment is made per household in to a shared bank account unless there are ‘exceptional circumstances.’ Although accountability for the abuse lies with the perpetrator, the benefit system could actually be facilitating that abuse by allowing abusive partners to take control of the whole family budget leaving the victim and their children vulnerable. Furthermore, is the rule of one payment per household making it harder for victims to leave an abusive relationship, particularly where there is financial control?
The Home Affairs Select Committee has urged the government to scrap the single household payments in favour of split payments for couples as standard.
If you have been the victim of domestic abuse and require legal aid advice our specialist family law team at Farleys can help, we understand the urgency and are experienced advising and assisting victims of all types of domestic abuse.
To make an appointment or for more information call us on 0845 287 0939 or submit a query online today.