I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. That issue came up at a roundtable to discuss universal credit that I held in my constituency earlier this year. It brought together charities, local groups and service users to talk about their experience. In my constituency, full service universal credit has been rolled out since March 2017. At the roundtable, the need for automatic split payments was highlighted as a clear and prominent issue that has been impacting the lives of survivors of domestic abuse. Attendees of the roundtable, as well as respected organisations and groups, have stated that a single household payment has been shown to be highly problematic for a number of reasons, the first of which is that it perpetuates and contributes to inequality. Engender stated:
“Payment…to one partner in a couple is likely to result in less equal relationships, with one individual less able to access income.”
Again, this applies especially to women, as women are more likely to be economically dependent, to hold caring roles and to be subject to financial and other abuse.
That brings me to the heart of this issue, which is that single household payments facilitate economic abuse, where a person is deprived of financial independence. I pay tribute to the work of the Work and Pensions Committee on this issue. Evidence submitted by Scottish Women’s Aid and Engender to that Committee’s investigation into universal credit and domestic abuse stated:
“The single household payment is a gift to perpetrators of domestic abuse as it rapidly facilitates and legitimises what may previously have taken months or years of coercive control to achieve.”
That is disgraceful. It is shocking and deeply concerning that Government policy can be making it easier for abusers. What makes it worse is that single payments can then act as a barrier to survivors leaving abusive relationships.