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

We will be looking at that. I understand the hon. Lady’s point. I want to engage with the experts—the ManKind Initiative, Women’s Aid and Refuge—to look at it and identify the problems. I am not in charge of UC; I am in charge of trying to make it better for those with complex needs, including victims of domestic abuse. That is a real priority for me.

I welcome the work of the Work and Pensions Committee and the fact that its report states:

“Since 2010, the Government has begun to make great strides in tackling domestic abuse…
It has also demonstrated a clear commitment to being more supportive of survivors of domestic abuse.”

Although we are not everything, we play an important role, and I take that seriously.

I am conscious of time, so let me address the specific point about split payments. I welcome the fact that Scotland wishes to try them. As it stands, anybody who is a victim of domestic abuse can be given a split payment. I accept the point that there are then challenges—not unreasonably, the hon. Member for Midlothian said that the current recipient would notice that it was potentially half of the income. We need to look at Scotland because we have to learn from the test and look at the unintended consequences.

Those groups that campaigned for a split payment do not agree on how to split it. It is not the case that everybody would simply do it 50:50. If the state arbitrarily says that somebody should have 70% and somebody else should have 30%, that could have unintended consequences. That may not mean that it is not the right way to do it, but it is why we have committed to give support to the Scottish Parliament to do its pilot. The pilot will cover a sufficiently large area for us to draw good information from it and decide whether split payments are the way to go or whether—because of unintended consequences, and despite the good intentions—they are not.

The answer to the specific question of whether the Scottish Government have introduced suggestions on how to do split payments or a plan for legislation is, “Absolutely not.” I suspect, in their defence, that that is because the issue of how the payments are split is so complex. However, they will get our full support to make whatever they do work. Just to be clear, the principle of having household income is not new to UC; it has been the case for legacy benefits since the dawn of time. That does not mean that it is right, but we will look closely at the Scottish Government.