Benefits system must support victims of crime

Cllr Jess Phillips, Birmingham City Council’s Victims’ Champion, blogs on potential changes to the benefits system which could impact upon victims of crime if introduced…

Cllr Jess Phillips

Cllr Jess Phillips

I was concerned to read recently that a national charity which runs refuges for victims of domestic violence has warned it will have to close every one of its centres because of planned changes to benefit rules.

As Birmingham City Council’s Victims’ Champion, I share these concerns. The new rules for Universal Credit may not allow people – including victims of domestic violence – to claim housing benefit for additional things such as security provided in a refuge.

I know that no final decision has been made on what service charges might be eligible for housing benefit in the future, but if it is excluded, it will simply make the future provision of refuge accommodation unaffordable for many charities and good causes that provide excellent services to people here in Birmingham.

Refuge accommodation is a vital part of the support available to victims of domestic violence. We are already looking at the details of the changes involved in welfare reform and I am also hosting a round table event in Birmingham in the autumn involving all agencies with an interest in service for victims – an event which was pledged when my role was created earlier this year.

I will ensure that the Government is well aware of any damaging impacts these changes may have on the lives of the many victims of domestic violence, because our priority must always be those who suffer as a result of such unacceptable criminal activity.

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