Benefit system akin to the 1950s

Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell.
Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell.

It’s a given that the government is using so-called ‘reforms’ to slash the social security bill in the north east and other areas, but a parliamentary report, which has barely been reported, is truly shocking.

It shows that the Universal Credit (UC) system, which has been rolling out across the UK since 2015 to simplify benefits and tax credits, provides a single monthly payment to one person per household, leaving abuse victims and their children dependent and highly vulnerable.

The work and pensions select committee heard evidence that people living with abuse can see their entire monthly income, including money meant for their children, go into their abusive partner’s bank account.

That makes it harder for victims to leave and the report said: “There is a serious risk of UC increasing the powers of abusers.”

UC was supposed to mirror the world of work, but no employer would pay wages into a partner’s bank account. In the 21st century women deserve to be treated as independent citizens.

The report added that the Department for Work and Pensions had a “moral duty” to ensure payments did not help abusers maintain their control. The government’s response that abuse support teams are on hand in every Jobcentre was pathetic.

Committee chairman Frank Field was dead right to point out that: “This is not the 1950s.”

Nowadays, men and women work independently, pay taxes as individuals, and should each have an independent income.

The UC’s single household payment bears no relation to the world of work, is out of step with modern life and turns back the clock on decades of hard-won equality for women.

Frank said: “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.”

Quite right, too.