STAFF working for the Department of Work and Pensions in the South West have been specially trained to spot and support victims of domestic abuse, it was disclosed today.

They have already undergone specialist training from expert organisation Women’s Aid and will operate from jobcentres.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said every UK Jobcentre will have a trained domestic abuse point of contact by the end of summer.

She said: “Domestic abuse is a despicable crime that often happens behind closed doors, making it incredibly difficult to detect. By ensuring there is a specially trained domestic abuse support officer in every UK Jobcentre, we are increasing the likelihood that someone will spot the tell-tale signs and get support to the victim quickly.

“And with the automatic recommendation that payments are to go to the main carer, we’re making it easier for women to build the financial independence they need to leave their abuser.”

The newly-assigned staff have been trained to identify and support the needs of anyone experiencing domestic abuse, and are working closely with local services to share knowledge and signpost to additional, external support.

In an important step to protect those experiencing domestic abuse, the Secretary of State also announced that new Universal Credit claims will receive automatic guidance directing payments to be made to the primary carer of children in the household.

In the same week that the Domestic Abuse Bill received its First Reading in the House of Commons, the critical change set out by Rudd followed a to ensure the welfare system works in the best interests of women.

On a recent visit to Women’s Aid member organisation Advance, Amber Rudd discussed the importance of the new training with DWP staff in Salisbury who have recently completed it.

She also met with frontline support workers and heard first-hand accounts from survivors of abuse who are currently being helped by the charity.

Advance is a women’s organisation that provides support and advocacy to over 3,000 survivors of domestic abuse and their children every year.

Kirstie Reakes, Customer Service Manager in Salisbury Jobcentre, said: “We want all of our customers to feel safe, to know they’re going to get the right help and support, and that DWP staff will listen to them and support them.”

Jacqui Kilburn, manager of the National Training Centre at Women’s Aid, said: “Women’s Aid has welcomed the opportunity to deliver training to the South West, ensuring DWP staff understand the devastating nature and harm caused by domestic - including economic - abuse.

“We now look forward to working with the Secretary of State to ensure every frontline work coach is trained to deliver the right response to survivors and secure a welfare system that supports women and children experiencing domestic abuse.”

Niki Scordi, Chief Executive of Advance said: “For women escaping domestic abuse, help needs to be where they are - whether a GP surgery or a Jobcentre. Training like this can help change and even save lives.

“With Jobcentres and specialist services like Advance working together, women and children can be supported to rebuild their lives."

Around 60 per cent of Universal Credit payments go to women within joint claims. But recognising that women experiencing domestic abuse may also be victims of financial coercion, the DWP wants to do more to ensure benefit payments are directed to the primary carer of children in a household.

There are also a range of measures designed to provide assistance and support to survivors of domestic abuse including benefit easements and advance payments, as well as maintaining close links with local supported accommodation provision.

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