Universal credit could 'shut women's refuges'
Charities have warned that new benefit rules will lead to the closure of women’s refuges.
The charity Women’s Aid believes draft universal credit regulations, due to come before parliament in the autumn, will make the provision of refuges for domestic violence victims more difficult and lead to them being closed.
The regulations only list three types of charge eligible to be covered by housing benefit. Housing sector figures have warned this could lead to around 13 different types of charges no longer being eligible for benefit. These include the maintenance of communal gardens, fire safety equipment, communal heating, lighting, lifts, door entry systems, children’s play areas, white goods, furniture and rubbish collection.
Women’s Aid, in a briefing document, said: ‘These charges are necessary for the provision of refuge accommodation.’
The charity added that the measures are ‘likely to result in the closure of refuges that are financially unsustainable due to barriers to the receipt of rent.’
Women’s Aid called for women in refuges to be exempt from the £26,000 a year benefit cap, for payments of housing benefit to be made direct to the refuge and for housing benefit to pay the whole running costs of refuges.
Refuge, another charity, said the changes could result in the closure of its 297 refuges.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said the claims that refuges will close do not take into account plans for new funding arrangements under the benefits system, which will be announced ‘in due course’.