The first part of this article is an extract from an excellent but shocking article by Alex Tiffin over at the Universal Credit Sufferer blog – reproduced with permission, read the full piece here – that shows the DWP demanding evidence from survivors of domestic abuse before the department will offer them any support or ‘easement’ .
The second part is additional information uncovered by the SKWAWKBOX that makes the first part even more horrific – because while the DWP demands that domestic abuse survivors move out of the family home as part of the ‘evidence’ of abuse, the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government (DHCLG) will regard the person fleeing the abuse as intentionally homeless for housing support purposes.
The claimant must move out of the household and is required to provide written evidence to their work coach that they are receiving help for domestic abuse before the easement can be granted.Mark Serwotka, PCS union in a letter to Frank Field MP
Tiffin discovered that the DWP is requiring survivors of domestic abuse to meet conditions in order to qualify for relief from the usual job-search conditions. He wrote:
When I read this I wasn’t surprised, but to be sure I checked it out. Sure enough, there’s an entire page on getting help if you’re a victim of domestic a abuse on the DWP website.
On the page it lists certain conditions, yes conditions, victims must meet.
“You will need written evidence from a person acting in an official capacity showing that:
– your circumstances are consistent with those of a person who has had domestic violence or abuse inflicted, or threatened, upon them, during the 6 months prior to you notifying
– you have made contact with the person acting in an official capacity to tell them about any incidents that have occurred in the past 6 months
You must provide your evidence to Jobcentre Plus as soon as possible but no later than one calendar month after you first told us about the domestic violence and abuse.”
So a victim of domestic abuse not only has to open up to work coach about their abuse, then they get asked for proof?
The requirements do not end there. Once they’ve decided to accept that you have been a victim, you MAY be allowed a 13 week break from looking for work, but only if you satisfy the next set of criteria.
The most notable of them being,
“you have not had a 13 week break from work-related requirements as a result of previous domestic violence within the last 12 months”.
In some cases of domestic violence, the victim may return to their abuser. This is well known and it’s hard to think the DWP wouldn’t have known this.
This means a benefit claimant who’s endured repeated abuse, just has to battle on because they’ve been unfortunate enough to be abused twice in a year.
But it gets worse still…
But a union source also told the SKWAWKBOX that the needlessly-inflicted horror does not end there. While the DWP requires a victim of domestic abuse to leave home in order to qualify, a person who leaves home to escape such abuse loses their claim to the home – and is counted as having made her- or himself ‘intentionally homeless‘.
Local authorities have no legal duty to help a person declared intentionally homeless beyond ‘advice and assistance’, except in a limited range of ‘priority’ circumstances – and even in those circumstances, further help is time-limited.
Imagine the despair of leaving home to escape abuse, only to find that the local authority has categorised you as deliberately homeless and refuses to treat you as deserving of proper help to find a new long-term home.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted both the DWP and MHCLG for their comment. Neither denied that the above summary is accurate. Instead, the departments issued a joint statement via a DWP spokesperson:
We have specialist teams in every Jobcentre to ensure people fleeing domestic abuse get help quickly. People are supported from the moment they speak to staff, but are asked to provide evidence from a third party to continue receiving specialised support.
Urgent payments can be made within two to three hours, a person’s claim can be transferred to a different Jobcentre and people are signposted to expert support.A DWP spokesperson
The same spokesperson also provided two pieces of ‘additional information’, neither of which contradict the above findings:
Work coaches receive guidance and training on domestic abuse situations and can remove any work related requirements on the victim and refer them to external, expert support.
If someone is taking shelter in a refuge, they don’t need a bank account to make a claim to Universal Credit. Jobcentre staff can make payments into a post office card account or use the Government Exception Service to make quick, one-off payments, or consider paying benefits via Simple Payment. A Simple Payment account is created at the point of the claim and a card can be delivered to the claimant’s home address within three working days. If claimants do not have a safe address there are also processes which enable urgent payments to be made for collection within two to three hours.The DWP
The SKWAWKBOX’s union contact commented further:
Domestic abuse survivors are afraid of losing their homes and children and this often makes them stay in dangerous situations. Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence and abusers know that they will be made destitute if they dare leave.
This is the state enabling domestic violence. Child benefit, designed to ensure mothers had some access to money, has also been tied up in Universal Credit, taking even this tiny amount from them.
Victims of domestic violence can be male or female, but those affected are overwhelmingly women. UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston last November described the policies of the Tory government as appearing to be designed by misogynists.
This is yet one more area in which it is surely impossible for any reasonable person to disagree.
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