Universal Credit is set to get a major overhaul in a bid to cut the risk of domestic abusers using the payments to financially control their victims, Amber Rudd has revealed.
In a speech on Friday announcing a range of Universal Credit reforms, the work and pensions secretary said she would investigate “what more” the government could do to ensure payments were made to the main carer in a family – often a woman.
It follows repeated warnings from domestic abuse campaigners – and parliament’s own work and pensions committee – that the single household payments given under the government’s flagship welfare scheme could trap victims in abusive relationships.
“I recognise the validity of these claims and concerns,” Rudd said. “That’s why I’m committed to ensuring that household payments go directly to the main carer, which is usually – but not always – the woman.”
Changes will be introduced later in the year, she added.
According to government figures, among families claiming Universal Credit, around 60% of payments already go into women’s bank accounts.
The move has been welcomed by women’s charities, with Refuge saying that while “improvements are still needed” it was glad that the government was taking action.
Rudd’s announcement is part of a series of changes she has introduced in a bid to make Universal Credit “a compassionate and fair system helping people into work”.
It was revealed on Thursday that government plans to retrospectively slash benefits for families with more than two children – even if they were born before the two-child cap was introduced in 2017 – were to be scrapped.
Critics said the scheme would have cut families’ income by an average of £3,000-a-year – around 10% of their income – and pushed more than 260,000 children into poverty.
“I believe it is unfair to apply that limit retrospectively,” Rudd told crowds gathered for her speech at a Jobcentre in central London. By scrapping the cap extension, she was making sure the policy retained its “fundamental fairness”, she added.
But Labour called for the two-child cap – which currently applies to families with children born after April 2017 – to be completely abolished.