Universal Credit (UC) is allowing ‘abusers’ to take control of family finances, an investigation by a parliamentary committee has heard. UC is paid to one person per household and the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee heard examples of men being paid a month’s welfare income on behalf of their whole family and disappearing for days on end, not returning till the money is spent.
Committee chairman Frank Field said: ‘This is not the 1950s. Men and women work independently, pay taxes as individuals, and should each have an independent income. ‘Not only does UC’s single household payment bear no relation to the world of work, it is out of step with modern life and turns back the clock on decades of hard-won equality for women. ‘The government must acknowledge the increased risk of harm to claimants living with domestic abuse it creates by breaching that basic principle, and take the necessary steps to reduce it.’
The committee heard evidence from victims of domestic abuse who saw their entire monthly income, including money meant for their children, go into their abusive partner’s account. One claimant with children, whom Field and his colleagues spoke to, said: ‘He’ll wake up one morning with £1,500 in his account and p*** off with it, leaving us with nothing for weeks.’
Women’s Aid chief executive Katie Ghose said: ‘It is clear from this report that there are major concerns about the safety of Universal Credit in cases where there is domestic abuse.’ Declining to pledge to abolish the hated new system, shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood repeated Labour’s call for a ‘pause’ in the roll-out of UC to ‘fix the problems’.
• The Labour Party is to propose a ‘universal basic income’ in its next manifesto for a general election, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said. It is to be its answer to Ian Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit which is currently causing so much suffering.
McDonnell told the Independent newspaper, that a Labour-commissioned review into the policy is to be published in the autumn. The plan would ditch means-tested benefits and replace them with an unconditional flat rate payment to all citizens.
McDonnell said he has discussed the idea with ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband, who is ‘really keen’ on getting a pilot of the scheme in the next manifesto. McDonnell said: ‘It’s one of those things I think we can get into the next manifesto and see. It’s worth a try. There have been pilots elsewhere. I’m trying to wait for the feedback.’