Jobless women who suffer sexual and domestic violence are wrongly penalised by losing all or part of their benefits, a report suggests.
The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, criticised the Department for Work and Pensions for not publicising rules that allow flexibility in imposing benefit sanctions on domestic abuse victims.
Its inquiry team found that women suffering such abuse had their Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) cut for missing Jobcentre appointments and training courses.
Lone parents and women who did not speak good English suffered the same fate. Belinda Phipps, the society’s chairwoman, said:
Women, particularly mothers, are more likely to be affected by financial hardship in the home because they act as ‘shock absorbers’, shielding their children and families from the impact of financial hardship.
The inquiry heard evidence that women who had lost their JSA were told their children would be taken into council care because they did not have enough income to support them.
It found that the system did not take account of women’s lives. For example, some lone parents have to look for full-time jobs involving three hours of travel, even though that makes it impossible for them to look after their children.
A spokesman for the DWP said: “The report is misleading and wrongly suggests that women don’t make use of our important safeguards in the same way men do."
More: The 11 most senseless benefit sanction decisions known to man