Universal credit is a threat to society's most vulnerable

A planned expansion of universal credit has caused the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to warn that the move poses a ‘significant threat of harm’ to vulnerable claimants. (1)

Universal credit is a social security scheme that was introduced to the UK in 2013 as part of wider welfare reform. It replaces six separate means-tested benefit payments with a single monthly payment and has been rolled out in stages to date. (2)

It has attracted criticism in particular for its long waiting period for payments to be made, causing claimants to fall into debt to meet living costs. In 2015, the government announced that it would also be cutting the value of universal credit, reducing the working income allowance and limiting per-child allocations. (3) Among these controversial elements is the system behind universal credit which requires a single payment, allocating total financial control to one individual in each household. (4)

Mary Mason, CEO said
“We support the call to the government to pause the expansion of universal credit across London.  Far too many vulnerable women and children who live in controlling and abusive relationships will be affected and their livelihoods put at risk. The fact that payments are made into one bank account further supports financial abuse by creating a situation where women do not have vital access to the household income, seriously impacting on their ability to feed themselves and their children, avoid debt and possible eviction. Delays in payment when a woman leaves a controlling and abusive relationship and has to make a new claim, will put yet another barrier in place for women who do not have the financial means to escape abuse. It is not in the public interest to allow such injustice.”

When such policy changes are implemented, it is often the most vulnerable individuals in society who suffer the most. We know that it takes significant financial support to leave an abusive situation, and it is unacceptable that a government system responsible for the livelihoods of these individuals have not considered the serious risks to safety by limiting their financial access.  Solace supports Sadiq Khan’s call to pause the expansion of universal credit until adequate protection and reform of the current system is put in place.