Universal Credit | The impact on women’s refuges.
Charities have warned that the impending welfare changes (via Universal Credit) could lead to closures of much needed women’s refuges and as a direct result; a rise in domestic violence deaths.
Draft Universal Credit regulations, due to be addressed in Parliament this Autumn, only list 3 types of charge eligible to be covered by Housing Benefit. Housing sector figures have warned that this could lead to around 13 different types of charges no longer being eligible for benefit – including:
- the maintenance of communal gardens
- fire safety equipment
- communal heating
- door entry systems
- children’s play areas
- white goods
- furniture and
- rubbish collection.
Therefore, in an open letter published in The Times (27th July 2012) Women’s Aid have called for women in refuges to be exempt from the £26,000 a year benefit cap, for payments of Housing Benefit to be made direct to the refuge and for housing benefit to pay the whole running costs of refuges.
Women’s Aid ” Threat to Refuges ” open letter:
Sir, refuges for women and children fleeing domestic violence are under immediate threat. Set up in the 1970’s, the network of over 900 refuges in England provides an estimated 37,000 women and children each year with immediate safety and ongoing support. Other outreach and community based services support around 143,000 adults and children. With two women being killed each week, domestic violence continues to affect one in four women’s lives and impacts on at least 750,000 children each year.
Refuges are not expensive but Universal Credit, capping benefits at £500 each week, will mean that women with three or more children will not have sufficient money to pay the rent. This will be particularly true when they are considering returning to the property they have fled from but need legal and other protection in place. Both rents will need to come from Universal Credit.
Refuges are a place of crisis – women and children arrive at night, over weekends and on bank holidays. The new benefit arrangements do not allow for regular changes to rents – refuges stand to lose a significant proportion of their income as short stays are not catered for within the proposed new system.
Unlike most other short term supported accommodation, refuges house families. Housing Benefit will no longer include vital funds for playrooms, gardens and lounges for families, confining women and children to one room.
Years of effort in building up a respectable national network of refuge provision will become unviable overnight because of these changes. Further information is available from www.womensaid.org.uk.
We call on the Government to provide guaranteed funding to refuges by paying for refuges directly and outside of the Housing Benefit system, providing safety to women and children and sustainability to the vital network of refuges across the UK.
Refuge, the national charity for women and children against domestic violence, have also warned that the welfare changes could result in the closure of its 297 refuges, and in a recent submission to the BBC said:
“As things stand, two women a week are already being killed by domestic violence. This figure will inevitably rise if vital services close.”
The Department for Work and Pensions have denied that the introduction of Universal Credit will have such a result and that the claims do not take into account plans for new funding arrangements, which will be announced ‘in due course’.
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