Universal Credit: Domestic Abuse

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Sherlock Baroness Sherlock Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Opposition Senior Whip (Lords)

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the portal through which joint claims for Universal Credit are made allows each partner to see all of the messages between the Department for Work and Pensions and either partner; and if so, what assessment they have made as to the potential impact of that access on the risk of domestic abuse.

Photo of Baroness Stedman-Scott Baroness Stedman-Scott The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Department is committed to providing the best possible support for all our claimants, including those who are, or are at risk of becoming victims of domestic abuse. In such instances, our immediate priority is to ensure that claimants receive appropriate practical assistance through Universal Credit (UC).

The UC journal facilitates digital communication of routine information, allowing both the Department and claimants to communicate with one another. Although each partner can see the journal messages, to safeguard all our claimants, we ask that the journal is not used to share sensitive information.

All claimants have a named Case Manager or Work Coach which they can contact through the Freephone UC helpline or face to face in Jobcentres. These channels allow the Department to provide more immediate and bespoke support to the vulnerable partner without risk of the interaction being captured on the journal and viewed by the partner.

All UC staff receive training on complex needs, including on identifying and supporting victims of abuse and signposting to expert partner organisations, such as Women's Aid. They also have access to the latest guidance on domestic abuse and Alternative Payment Arrangements, including how to instigate Split Payments, which allows UC payments to be divided between different people within the same claim.

Jobcentres across the country work closely with partner organisations and stakeholders and have escalation routes to provide local community based, joined up services. We will continue to maintain these strong relationships to ensure we continue to support our most vulnerable claimants.

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