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Bishop of Manchester advocates for amendment protecting universal credit income for domestic abuse victims

The Bishop of Manchester David Walker has advocated for an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill which would require the benefit cap to be disapplied for people who have escaped situations of domestic abuse.

The rules would apply for 12 months while the victim is making a new universal credit claim in their own name after separating from their partner.

The amendment is co-sponsored by Bishop Walker, Labour peer Baroness Primarolo and Lord Best.   

"As a priest and, for two decades, a bishop in the established Church and as chair of numerous housing associations and housing charities over many years, I have seen all too often the enormous obstacles that lie ahead for anyone, especially a woman with children, fleeing domestic abuse," Bishop Walker said in his remarks on the amendment. 

"Too many too often give up and return to a place of damage and danger. Too many who escape face long periods in temporary and unsuitable accommodation, often beyond the point when they need the particular support services offered there. Sadly, too many die at the hands of their abuser." 

Bishop Walker added that the "overriding purpose of the benefits system and of universal credit as its linchpin must be to help victims to make the transition for themselves and their children from the place of abuse via such short-term specialist accommodation as they require and into a settled home where they can begin to regain some normality in their lives".

He added: "Only then can children be settled into schools with some hope of permanence, and a mother know what pattern of work will be practicable alongside her parenting responsibilities." 

The amendment, he said, "would allow a breathing period, while a new household was being formed, during which more lenient rules would be applied".

"I know that the plight of women fleeing abuse is dear to the heart of the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and I am grateful to her for steering this Bill through your Lordships’ House," Bishop Walker said. "I would be even more grateful were she able to offer some assurances that Her Majesty’s Government will look again at how the benefits system interfaces with our efforts to prevent domestic abuse and then propose specific amendments to that end."

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, the Bishop for Prisons, also spoke in support of the amendments:

"A key objective of the Bill is to raise awareness and understanding of domestic abuse and its impact on victims. That task can be effective only if the Home Office and commissioner are fully apprised of all reviews and investigations into deaths where domestic abuse is identified as a factor."

She added: "We have already seen the fruits of the designate commissioner’s hard work. If this role is to be a success, it is essential to have join-up. Nicole Jacobs has been exemplary in her role already, and I am grateful for the many connections she has made and the strong relationships she has built, not least in the preparation of this Bill.

"But it is important to ensure that the list of public authorities that have a duty to co-operate with the commissioner is as extensive as possible on the face of legislation, so that we do not rely on relationship alone as we go forward."


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