A referral for a woman and her four children came via the police and the children’s school due to severe domestic and sexual abuse. Following our referral process they were accepted into refuge and arrived later that day.
During induction, Mum was going through her income and benefits and staff noticed that she was not in receipt of the amount they expected (in line with DWP benefit guidelines). Mum explained that because she lived in England, where welfare reform had already been implemented, although she had four children (all under the age of 12) she was only able to claim benefits for two of them. Mum said she had been liaising with her local Citizen’s Advice Bureau because she had been “really struggling” to live, but due to welfare reform she was only entitled to a further £6 per week Discretionary Housing Payments.
Mum stated that the change in her benefits – which saw her £130 per week worse off – started two months prior and she had already found herself in debt and was struggling to pay her bills and rent.
Whilst the family were in refuge, staff liaised with the DWP and her local housing and managed to secure the full Housing Benefit allowance (the amount she would have received prior to reform) for the property she had fled, as well as working out a small re-payment plan for the money outstanding on her rent account. However, they were informed should the family return, the Housing Benefit allowance in place would stop (Housing Benefit was paid to refuge in full).
During their time in refuge, the eldest child was diagnosed with PTSD (due to domestic abuse) and had started self-harming as a coping mechanism. With the help of Children’s Services and the specialist team, Mum secured DLA and Carers Allowance. Shortly after the DWP informed Mum that due to being in receipt of these benefits she would now qualify for ‘full Housing Benefit allowance’ and additional premiums, meaning the family would be in receipt of £732 per week.
Mum stated that due to her eldest child being awarded those benefits she would now be able to live and move on independently without returning to her partner because of financial restraints.
The family have since left refuge and continue to live apart from the perpetrator.
Welfare reform has not fully come into force in all areas across Wales and the above case study is the first experience staff at this service have come across.