Most refuges for victims of domestic violence are reliant on rental income, including housing benefit, and local authority funding. This will change next year when the Universal Credit is introduced and it is estimated this could affect up to 60% of funding for refuges. This could lead to many closing as they are not financially sustainable. Below are some further details and background for this campaign.
We are asking the Government to ensure that these changes do not cut the funding available to refuges – you can find a draft letter to email or send to your local MP here: Home Campaign 1- UC and refuges letter and you can find out how to contact your local MP here. If you get a response, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This campaign was suggested at a London workshop in July 2012
Background Brief: Why are we campaigning on this issue?
The Universal Credit is one of the Coalition Government’s flagship policies, aiming to consolidate benefits and tax credits into one single payment, thereby reducing complexity and administration. It will replace previous forms of assistance including income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit as well as cap the amount that can be claimed. Refuges are likely to be hit particularly hard by these changes as their clients are unable to claim for the full cost of staying and the refuges themselves are left chasing vulnerable clients for the rents owed.
- The benefit cap will be set at £500. Solace, the women’s refuge charity estimate that Dual Housing Benefit (DHP) is claimed by around 40% of women entering refuges to enable them to cover both the cost of staying in a refuge and their existing property so that they do not lose their homes when they flee. However, the benefit cap will include all these costs. This means that a survivor’s existing rent and their refuge rent will most likely take them above the threshold for the cap. This could mean they have to choose between paying to stay in a refuge and losing their homes.
- The payments will be made direct to claimants rather than landlords. Many survivors stay in a refuge service for only a few days or may go to several services and back to their home in any one month. This change could leave refuges chasing clients for back payments for rent. They also have no waiting lists as all their tenants are in crisis situations requiring immediate housing, making upfront charging unpractical. It can also take at least 16 weeks to process benefit payments.
- Fewer service charges will be covered by benefits. This will impact on the costs of vital provision in refuge services such as playrooms, security and safety measures, communal living rooms which help make them family friendly.
- Solace also state currently a third of women attending refuges are new claimants of housing benefit and two- thirds are already receive housing benefit. Some of them will have made claim on their own, but others will make it with a partner. Those who claim in their own right will not be able to make a claim for a new property (through a claim for a change in circumstances) until the following month as this is currently not included in the proposals. However, those who leave a joint claim would be able to make a new claim for a new residency, further complicating the ability of victims to cover their housing costs and refuges to support them.