Universal Credit Split Payments — [Geraint Davies in the Chair]

Part of Asylum Accommodation Contracts – in Westminster Hall at 4:18 pm on 10th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 4:18 pm, 10th October 2018

I was not present when that evidence was given, just when the Committee was considering it, but I will cover many of those points as I proceed.

With respect to domestic abuse, we are covering physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and financial abuse, and controlling and coercive behaviour. We are particularly looking at economic abuse. We all agree that the solution to domestic violence is complex and should ultimately be delivered through the judicial system, but the Department has an incredibly important role, not just through UC but through the wider work of the Government. The Government are fully committed to taking the issue very seriously, and I expect that to have full cross-party support. The Department will continue to feed into progress towards the domestic violence and abuse Bill. I represent the Department on the inter-ministerial group on violence against women and girls, and we regularly work with key stakeholders such as Women’s Aid, Refuge and the ManKind Initiative—I shall give more details on that work as I proceed.

I was particularly touched by the case that the hon. Member for Midlothian raised. Today I met representatives of Women’s Aid and Refuge to talk specifically about the journey in the jobcentre process. It is now mandatory for all work coaches to have training to recognise and identify victims of domestic abuse and those at risk, and to offer support, which can include signposting to national partnership organisations such as Refuge and Women’s Aid, but also to local organisations—every town is different. That approach relies on people being willing to be referred, but they are offered that menu of signposting options.

In her case study, the hon. Lady mentioned financial barriers to people leaving their household. Louise Haigh said in an intervention that it would be totally unacceptable for the Government to put up a barrier. That is a really key point, so we ensure that people who wish to leave their household can be put immediately on the universal credit single payment in their own right. If they are already on a legacy housing benefit, they will get two weeks of additional housing benefit money up front, to give them immediate cash. While they are there, they will also have 100% access to the advance payment on day one, as well as the signposting.

We do not encourage people to stay in such a household, so we put a big emphasis on partnership working and on talking to those with expertise in the area. However, those who do wish to stay, for whatever reason, can request split payments. The hon. Member for Midlothian cited a figure of 15 households, but the figure is actually 20. At the moment, the majority of people going through UC are single claimants, so it is not an exact science, but we will continue to look at the statistics. I take the point that the data is limited; it tells us whether people are now successfully receiving split payments, but I would like more—that is a given. As a Minister, I will push for more data because we will need it to target support. UC design is not a simple process.