Policy Work

Changing Lives works to influence policy and practice in a number of areas. As part of this work we produce briefings and respond to consultations in our four main areas of expertise: housing and homelessness, drug and alcohol work, work with women and children, and employment.

To find out more contact Jennifer Harrison, Head of Policy on Jennifer.Harrison@changing-lives.org.uk

Work and Pensions Select Committee: Universal Credit and Survival Sex Inquiry: Response April 2019

In March 2019 the Work and Pensions Select Committee launched a call for evidence on the topic of survival sex and universal credit. It said the investigation was in response to evidence from charities, including Changing Lives, that increasing numbers of women were forced by poverty into agreeing to sex for money – what we describe as survival sex.

On the 22nd May 2019 Laura Seebohm, Executive Director for Policy and Innovation provided evidence to the Committee. She highlighted that:

  • Three quarters of our services have supported clients who have disclosed involvement in survival sex or sex work as a direct result of Universal Credit
  • Half of services have reported an increase in clients disclosing survival sex and sex work since the introduction of Universal Credit
  • Most of our clients have experienced financial hardship as a result of at least one of the following:
    o Benefits sanction in last 12 months
    o Waiting for payment to be processed
    o Sanctions and debts accrued due to Universal Credit (e.g. housing arrears, advance repayments)
    o Benefits cap

All services agreed that Job Centre Plus should offer referral to specialist services, rapid access to payments and/or specialist financial inclusion support.

Over the past ten years Changing Lives has worked with over 1,200 women and men experiencing survival sex, sex work and sexual exploitation. We run specialist services in the North East, Merseyside, Wolverhampton and Doncaster. We know that time and time again women tell us the financial hardship of Universal Credit drives them to survival sex. We will continue to work with the Committee to raise the profile of this important issue and make sure more is done to support women facing the worst impacts of Universal Credit.

The transcript and written evidence have been published by Parliament and can be read online here.

Welfare Safety Net Inquiry Response November 2018

We surveyed all Changing Lives’ projects to understand the impact welfare reform and the introduction of Universal Credit has had on their services. Working in partnership with Fulfilling Lives Newcastle Gateshead we found that:

  • Universal Credit has resulted in significant numbers of the people we work with experiencing hardship. Delays in payment are the main factor; the monthly payment schedule can also cause hardship
  • Claims typically take six-eight weeks, but some projects indicate the average wait time is two-four months – during which time clients will be without any income at all
  • Benefit sanctions are also commonplace; four in ten projects report that the ‘majority’ of the people who use their services have received a sanction in the past 12 months
  • The vast majority of our services (80%) support clients to make Universal Credit claims. This process is widely considered to require ‘much more’ staffing resource compared to the Housing Benefit system
  • The impact of this hardship is profound. Moving to Universal Credit is described as creating feelings of “hopelessness, frustration and loss of control

Download our response here: Welfare Safety Net Inquiry Response November 2018

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