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24 October 2018

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Universal Credit could trap women in violent relationships

Universal credit is the latest in a series of general attacks on the working class causing mass anger, photo Judy Beishon

Universal credit is the latest in a series of general attacks on the working class causing mass anger, photo Judy Beishon   (Click to enlarge)

Helen Pattison, London Socialist Party

The introduction of Universal Credit, under which families can lose 200 a month, has rightly provoked outrage.

Among its possible impacts, this week even the home affairs select committee - a body itself made up of pro-cuts politicians - raised fears that Universal Credit would represent a "retrograde and backward step" in tackling domestic abuse.

This was down to the potential for the (often already limited) financial independence of women trapped in violent or controlling relationships to be removed.

Child benefit, which up until now has been paid directly to the primary carer for children (usually a woman), will be included in Universal Credit.

Women are often forced into financial dependence on partners because women's unequal pay as well as high childcare costs can make it cheaper for women not to work, whether they choose to or not.

Under the new scheme, one single payment will be made per household.

That means that, if the claim is made by a couple, only one partner will receive any money. This also applies to Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Working Tax Credit. In abusive relationships this can be dangerous.

Trade union pressure

The precursor to child benefit, family allowance, was created under the pressure of the trade union and labour movement - particularly from working-class women - as part of the creation of the welfare state.

It was paid directly to the "individual citizens who were undertaking the rearing of the citizens of the future". This universal payment, made to anyone caring for children, gave some important financial independence to many women. The payment was also made directly to single mothers.

In the decades since its introduction campaigners have repeatedly had to fight to defend these payments.

The Con-Dem government introduced means testing for Child Benefit in 2013 for the first time, meaning it is no longer universal. And, thanks to Universal Credit, it will also no longer be automatically paid to the person mainly responsible for caring for children.

With two in five Universal Credit recipients set to lose as much as 52 a week, this attack isn't just limited to the question of how benefits are paid. It's about driving people further and further into poverty - itself a major barrier to people being able to flee violence and abuse.

The Socialist Party stands for the immediate scrapping of Universal Credit. We say no to the Tories' vicious 'two child' policy, which limits payment of child tax credit or Universal Credit to a family's first two children.

What we say

We demand council house building so that every family can afford a roof over its head. We say benefits should provide enough money to live on. What's more, we call for free or low-cost childcare, the scrapping of zero-hour contracts and a minimum wage of at least 10 an hour - as a step towards a real living wage.

This would lay the basis for the ending of the disgrace of child poverty and help prevent women and children from being trapped by abuse.

All of these issues are being discussed across the women's and workers' movements because years of austerity have gutted the services that have been hard won, such as domestic violence refuges.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 24 October 2018:


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Related links:

Universal Credit:

triangleKeep the Universal Credit uplift

triangleMake the super-rich pay, not the poorest

triangleNo surprise, poverty is rising

triangleWhat will the spending review mean for me?

triangleDon't let Tories starve our kids

Women:

triangleCaerphilly and RCT Socialist Party: Defend women's right to choose

triangleWomen and the criminal 'injustice' system

triangleWomen's health matters

triangleUS right to abortion under threat: Mass campaign to support the right to choose must be built

Children:

triangleExhibition: What next for the statue of slave trader, Edward Colston?

triangleFund the measures needed to stop the Covid spread in schools

triangleBook review: Shuggie Bain

Family:

triangleBritish state absolves itself from killings during 'the Troubles'

trianglePlaque dedicated to Tony Mulhearn

Benefits:

triangleTories threaten to axe free prescriptions for older workers

Childcare:

triangleTories deliberately underfund childcare

Welfare state:

trianglePoverty increasing. Welfare state in crisis. Do we need a new Beveridge Report?

Housing benefit:

triangleTory hypocrisy over housing benefit cut

Domestic violence:

triangleDomestic Abuse Bill: So much still to fight for

Employment and Support Allowance:

triangleEnd "poverty, ill health and despair":a benefits adviser speaks out against the cuts

Cuts:

triangleGovernment departments move to impose pay cuts: Fightback needed

Child poverty:

triangleNo start for life

Article dated 24 October 2018

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