No temporary shelter for victims of racism or violence who flee homes
DWP to fix flaw on racist attacks
The government has pledged to rewrite draft benefit rules because they treat racist attacks as less serious incidents than domestic abuse.
Draft regulations for the universal credit, expected to come before parliament in the autumn, change the rules around extra benefit payments for claimants classed as ‘temporarily absent’ from their normal homes.
At present, claimants who have had to leave their home through fear of violence can be classed as temporarily absent (see box: How the rules may change). This means they can claim housing benefit to cover the costs of living in temporary accommodation for up to a year in addition to the costs of maintaining their home.
The new regulations restrict payments to victims of ‘domestic violence’, defined as abuse between people ‘who are or have been intimate partners or family members’.
This means claimants who cannot live at home because of fears of racial attacks or of abuse by non-partners in shared houses will be unable to claim extra benefit for temporary accommodation.
Chris Smith, a housing benefit consultant, warned this would lead to victims staying put and living in fear or moving and losing their homes. Mr Smith added vulnerable, disabled people could also be affected.
Andy Tate, policy leader at the National Housing Federation, said: ‘We would be very surprised if the government intended to provide less protection for victims of violence. We therefore urge it to look again at this.’
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said the regulations will be amended to cover violence in the home and not just domestic violence.
She also confirmed that temporary accommodation payments for violence victims would be subject to the £500 a week total household benefits cap but said discretionary housing payments will be available for victims who have a shortfall as a result.
Meanwhile, the NHF and several landlords met the DWP on 3 July to discuss fears that fewer service charges could be covered by benefit under the regulations. John Bryant, policy leader at the NHF, said the talks were ‘positive’ and another meeting will be arranged later this month.
How the rules may change
‘He shall be treated as occupying both dwellings as his home only for a period not exceeding 52 weeks in the case where he has left and remains absent from the former dwelling occupied as his home through fear of violence in that dwelling or by a former member of his family.’
Draft new regulations
‘It is unreasonable to expect the claimant to return to the accommodation which they normally occupy on account of the claimant’s reasonable fear of domestic violence.’