New benefits clampdown set to hit 130,000 despite fears over domestic violence
- Government to stop Housing Benefit and pension credit for people leaving Britain for a month
- Critics fear move will hit aid workers, fishermen and people fleeing domestic violence
- Even people going to Northern Ireland for a month will fall foul of new rules
By Chaminda Jayanetti
The government is planning to strip Housing Benefit and pension credit from people who spend more than a month outside Great Britain in a move that will affect 130,000 claimants, despite warnings it could hit people including aid workers and women fleeing domestic violence.
Under new rules (pdf) announced in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement and due to take effect later this year, Housing Benefit and pension credit payments will be terminated for claimants who spend more than four weeks in a row outside Great Britain.
Given that the rules cover Great Britain and not the UK as a whole, it means that people who spend time in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be hit.
The Department for Work and Pensions is pressing ahead with the changes despite warnings from its own advisory committee that the move could hit a wide variety of people, including aid workers, nurses working abroad, fishermen, students, and women fleeing domestic violence.
Tighter rules for tiny savings
Under the previous rules, Housing Benefit and pension credit payments would stop if a claimant left Great Britain for more than 13 weeks at a time.
The new rules cut this down to a much more restrictive four-week limit, with exemptions limited to military personnel posted abroad, mariners, continental shelf workers, and people receiving medical care abroad.
People who travel abroad due to the death of a loved one are also exempt from the four-week limit – but even they will see the limit cut from 13 weeks to eight weeks.
Moreover, the exemptions miss out a longer list of people who could be affected, and the DWP has ignored criticisms from its Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) having not even held a formal consultation on the changes with potentially affected groups.
Nor does the government intend to conduct any formal evaluation of the impact of the changes. An equality impact assessment conducted by the DWP simply stated: “Claimants who wish to be abroad from GB for longer periods should consider if they can afford to do so – just as working families do.”