£20 cut in Universal Credit could push victims of domestic abuse into poverty, charity warns

THE £20-a-week cut in Universal Credit could mean victims of domestic abuse are being forced to choose between escaping dangerous situations and having enough money to survive.

Thousands of women could be at significant risk from the changes, says the charity Refuge.


Cancellation of £20 Universal Credit increase leaves vulnerable women at riskCredit: Getty

He calls on ministers to turn around and keep the £20 Universal Credit boost, which was originally introduced to help struggling families survive the pandemic.

The increase is set to be liquidated until the end of September, meaning claimants will be £1,040 a year worse off from October 6.

Refuge CEO Ruth Davison, the Sun “Refuge has seen an increase in domestic violence cases over the past 18 months and Universal Credit is a lifeline for survivors trying to rebuild their lives and flee abuse, often at enormous emotional and financial cost.

“We fear that removing the £20 increase will push already vulnerable women and children further into poverty and, worryingly, may mean that some women have to make the difficult choice between staying with an abusive partner or be unable to provide for themselves and their children.

The charity said two-thirds of abuse survivors using shelters rely on additional payments from Universal Credit.

Refuge also says there are 1.6 million people who have experienced economic abuse during the pandemic.

The long-term effects of financial abuse can be devastating, with women experiencing financial instability and poverty, insecure housing, long-term debt and impaired credit ratings, and physical and mental health issues.

Ms Davison warned that cuts to Universal Credit could exacerbate these problems, with women finding it even harder to escape these abusive situations.

She added that the current benefit system is failing women and also called for changing the way advance loans work.

She said: “Right now the system can perpetuate abuse.

“Refuge has heard of survivors who have long waits for funds and are forced into long-term debt with prepayment loans before receiving payment.

“We hear from survivors who struggle to access universal credit and often forgotten migrant women who are excluded from services and unable to access help because they have no recourse to public funds.

“Refuge calls for Universal Credit advance payments to be made as a grant, rather than a loan, and for a social protection system that helps women live lives free of abuse.”

This is the latest in a long line of charity appeals for the government to keep the uprising in place.

Research from think tank Legatum Institute calculated that the £20 weekly supplement saved an additional 650,000 people from destitution.

And the charity Turn2Us said removing the elevation could see 500,000 people “plunged into poverty overnight”.

Almost half of adults on Universal Credit or tax credits fear the upcoming £20 cut will affect their ability to afford food and one in three said they don’t know if it would be able to keep paying their rent or mortgage without it.

A mother of five told The Sun that the advantage reduction will push her into debt and she will find it difficult to pay her bills and other essentials.

And a new study by Citizens Advice appeared to confirm their fears, showing 2.3 million people will be in debt after paying their bills at the end of the boost.

Six former Conservative secretaries for work and pensions, all wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking him to keep the uprising in place.

But the Treasury has repeatedly confirmed its intention to withdraw the additional funds from 1 October.

A spokesperson told The Sun: “Over £9billion will have been spent on the uprising by the time it ends in September. It is right that economic support is reduced as we emerge from this crisis and we’re focused on getting people back to work.”

The emergency measures have already been extended once when the closing date was moved from April 1 to October in the March budget.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can access free and confidential support from Refuge’s national 24-hour domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247 and digital support via Monday’s live chat to Friday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. via www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

What to do if you’re having trouble claiming Universal Credit

If you’re having trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover the costs, here are your options:

  • Ask for an advance – Applicants can get money within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it’s a loan, which means repayments will automatically be deducted from your future Universal Credit payment.
  • Alternative payment methods – If you are behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will ensure that your payment is sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split payments if you’re in a relationship.
  • Budget advance – You may be able to get government support for emergency cleaning costs up to £348 if you are single, £464 if you are part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your stove breaking down or to get help finding a job. You will need to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You will still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming Universal Credit.
  • Reduce your council tax – You may be able to get a reduction on your council tax by applying for a council tax reduction. Alternatively, you may be eligible for discretionary housing payments to help cover your rent.
  • Food banks – If you are really struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local food bank who will provide help for free. You can find your nearest on the Trussel Trust website.
Single mum ‘will have no money to buy food or school shoes for children’ after Universal Credit cut by £20

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Darcy J. Skinner