Universal Credit: Joint Claimants

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 25th April 2019.

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Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the potential merits of splitting universal credit payments between partners in joint claimant households.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the potential merits of splitting universal credit payments between partners in joint claimant households.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the potential merits of splitting universal credit payments between partners in joint claimant households.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We believe that most couples can and want to manage their finances jointly, without state intervention. However, we recognise that there are circumstances in which split payments are appropriate and we will always put that in place when requested.

Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

We understand that the UK Government are carrying out a formal impact assessment of the options put forward by the Scottish Government on delivering split payments, but has the Minister made representations to the Department for Work and Pensions outlining how split payments could help to protect victims of domestic violence?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We are working closely with the Scottish Government to establish the practicalities and nuts and bolts of their proposed pilot. We recognise that domestic abuse, including economic abuse, is a horrific crime that can affect anybody, and we are working across parties and across Government to ensure that it is addressed.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

Does the Minister agree that the options put forward by the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People are sensible and deliverable, with the DWP’s assistance, and will he congratulate the Scottish Government on taking forward this fantastic work to make universal credit fairer?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

That is not within my specific portfolio, so I cannot comment on the details, but I do know that policy officials in the Scottish Government and in DWP engage on an ongoing basis to determine how workable the Scottish Government’s proposals on split payments are, and that work will continue.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

If two people in the same household work for the same employer, they do not receive one wage; they each receive a separate salary at the end of every month. If the point of universal credit is to mimic wages to help people to get back into work, why on earth do the Government insist on not taking forward the idea of split payments for households?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

This Government believe, as have every preceding Government, that most couples can and want to manage their finances jointly without state intervention, and it is not this Government’s policy to make split payments by default. However, we are looking at the proposed Scottish pilot and, at the same time, by the end of the summer all jobcentres will have domestic abuse specialists to support work coaches and raise awareness.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Who is impacted more by the introduction of universal credit: women or men?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Women and men have benefited equally from the improvements that universal credit has brought in. There is unquestionable improvement in the outlook for women on a long-term basis as a result of the introduction of universal credit.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

Does my right hon. Friend welcome the decision to ensure that universal credit is paid to the main carer in the household, so that more women can make sure that their families are well supported?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has highlighted this and is bringing forward proposals to ensure that the main carer is the recipient. In particular, we are looking at the universal credit application form to ensure that the identification of the bank account can be done in an appropriate way.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I am sure that the Minister is aware of the difficulties that Women’s Aid and other domestic abuse charities have highlighted. Will he explain to the House how those difficulties will be addressed?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

That is a very broad question, and I will ensure that the Minister writes to the hon. Gentleman specifically on the work that is being done with Women’s Aid on an ongoing basis. There is a wholehearted strategy on domestic abuse and support for women in this context that is being addressed on a multitude of levels.

Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Disabilities), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Youth affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Children and Families), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

The Minister has repeatedly said that split payments would be too difficult and that the Government would therefore be unwilling to consider that option at this time. However, the Scottish Government and the Social Security Minister have proved that it is possible to ensure that split payments are the default. Does he accept that, by not doing this, he is simply compounding financial insecurity and leaving women in potentially perilous situations?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Split payments are available on request. No information is needed to get a split payment. However, 60% of payments are already paid into a woman’s bank account. As I outlined to my hon. Friend Vicky Ford, main carer recipient work is being done to ensure that this is done on a practical basis.