We have just submitted WinVisible’s evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee of MPs on Universal Credit (UC) and domestic abuse, with input from Women Against Rape and Legal Action for Women. The committee is scrutinising UC overall. They are now looking at how the single monthly payment of UC to the head of household, is a danger to women and children living with violent men; which groups of claimants are more likely to be affected; and how disabled claimants can be protected from financial abuse.
We said we are entirely opposed to UC which cuts or abolishes premiums which were established as necessary under Income Support, and additional benefit amounts for children and adults with specific needs: including via the two-child limit, abolition of severe and enhanced disability premiums, benefit cut to disabled
children and their families, the total benefit cap, and so on.
Disabled women, including women with long-term mental ill-health and mental
distress from trauma, are more likely to confide in us about experiences of rape,
violence and abuse which they don’t disclose to professionals or within mixed
organisations of men and women. Disabled women, and women and mothers who
become disabled while in a couple, report to us specific relationship pressures on
them. Women with disabilities and/or long-term ill-health are especially vulnerable
to mistreatment, exploitation and abuse as a result of financial dependence on
partners or other immediate family members. The experiences of women in our
network are borne out by research which showed that disabled women are twice as
likely to suffer domestic violence, compared to non-disabled women.
Escape routes and services for women with disabilities and women fleeing domestic
violence have had their funding slashed under austerity cuts – 86% of which have
fallen on women. The national women’s charity Women’s Aid is running an SOS
campaign in response to housing benefit cuts and government plans in funding for
supported housing, saying 39% of refuges will be forced to close if the plans are
implemented. In any case, the fact that social care support services do not follow
disabled women to a refuge, that she may be placed in a residential home or
hospital ward due to the shortage of accessible accommodation, or that she will
have to give up hard-won accessible housing to get out, are all realities that work
against disabled women leaving violent partners.
Read our full submission here.