During a visit, David Rutley MP met with four women survivors of domestic abuse and the criminal justice system and listened to their lived experiences and how government must help.
I was moved and inspired by my recent visit to your offices and wanted to thank you all for helping me to better understand the impact that domestic abuse can have on the lives of victims and in our communities.
Your work is nothing short of brilliant, helping women across the country recover from the trauma they have faced, helping them find safe accommodation, and providing support.
Together we had an open and wide-ranging discussion about the difficulties that survivors have to overcome to rebuild their lives.
And while there are no easy answers or quick fixes when someone is recovering from years of trauma, there are changes that can be made to the benefits system to help them back on their feet.
We are changing the system so that women separating from an abusive partner can remain in their homes with additional security without being expected to subsidise ‘extra space’ – such as a spare bedroom – through a reduction in their benefit payments.
These changes will also mean survivors can claim the higher one-bedroom rate of housing support through Universal Credit, rather than being asked to look for a shared property in the local area. This will help make sure a woman who has faced unimaginable trauma, can have a safe space of her own.
Our change for women remaining in their homes is already in place, whilst the one-bedroom rate alteration is being brought forward to next year, to help make a difference as soon as possible.
These changes will genuinely help make a difference in the lives of the vulnerable, brave women you work with and who are seeking to rebuild their lives.
And it’s not just about policy changes – but operational ones too.
Rest assured that every day, our Domestic Abuse leads in jobcentres all over the country are calling on what they have learned through better informed training Similarly, staff arranging Child Maintenance payments between separated parents are trained to spot worrying signs and connect women with specialist services – or contact the police on the woman’s behalf if there is an immediate risk.
But engaging with charities like Advance is absolutely key to helping keep women safe and I pledge to go on playing my part.
David Rutley is the Minister for Welfare Delivery at the Department for Work and Pensions