Report launch: Benefits or barriers? Making social security work for survivors of violence and abuse across the UK’s four nations


Women’s Budget Group, Surviving Economic Abuse and End Violence Against Women Coalition

Publication date: 

12th Jun 2019

Aspects of the social security system undermine the UK Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill.

Economic abuse is included in a statutory definition of abuse in the draft Domestic Abuse Bill; but the Bill’s potential is undermined by aspects of the benefits system that give additional scope for abusers to misuse benefits (e.g. the Universal Credit single payment) and by failing to meet survivors’ needs.

Read the full report here.

Read the executive summary here

The report by the Women’s Budget GroupSurviving Economic Abuse and End Violence Against Women Coalition has found that the social security systems across the UK fail survivors of violence and abuse when they need help most.

Social security is letting down women who are living with an abusive partner.
Social security is letting down women when they try to leave.
Social security is letting down women when they are trying to build a new life.

There are differences in social security policies and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategies across the four nations of the UK, meaning that women in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have different experiences.

However across the four nations women are more likely than men to rely on social security as they are more likely to have caring responsibilities, interrupted employment patterns, lower incomes and lower pay. Women are also more likely than men to receive certain benefits, often related to caring roles. In addition, women can be ‘shock absorbers’ of family poverty, often responsible for managing household budgets.

Women, particularly poor women, black and minority ethnic (BME) women and disabled women have borne the brunt of cuts to social security since 2010. Around £37 billion per year will have been cut from social security by 2020 as a result of cuts and changes since 2010. The four-year ‘freeze’ to most working age benefits and tax credits has affected 9 out of 10 single parents and other families with children. Specialist services for women have been cut, as have other services on which they rely such as advice and legal services.