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Women’s Aid — [Dr William McCrea in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:08 pm on 14th March 2012.

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Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 3:08 pm, 14th March 2012

That is a fair point, and it was the argument prosecuted by the Minister on Monday. However, it is one thing to offer women the choice to stay in accommodation with other people; for many women that would not be their choice. Although it is anecdotally-based, the view that that requirement might be an impediment to moving women into their own accommodation has a strong resonance in women’s aid organisations.

The regulations passed on Monday proved that the general can be finessed to the specific, and I hope that the Minister will discuss with her departmental colleagues whether some easement of the relevant aspect is possible, so that women, many of whom have been their own person for a long time, will not be forced into a particular choice, but offered a range of choices. Are we really going to say to those women that the only option for them at 33 or 34 is to share a flat with someone else—and not necessarily, as my hon. Friend Kate Greenpointed out—people they know?

Another element on which I wish to question the Minister is the way that the new universal credit regulations will work for those who have had to leave home because of domestic abuse. Universal credit is a household benefit, and a test of its responsiveness to individual circumstances will be how flexibly it enables one allocation to a household to be deconstructed when one partner leaves the household, often in traumatic circumstances. That is a question not just of the speed of response, but of how that will give the confidence that was spoken of earlier. I appreciate that the decision makers dealing with these issues might not deal with them daily, but we need some confidence that they will be able to respond quickly to those who need to establish a second claim for universal credit under the new regulations.