Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:51 pm on 17th November 2016.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon 12:51 pm, 17th November 2016

I do not recognise this as a cost-cutting exercise, but without knowing all the details, it is difficult to comment. I hope that the ministerial team will look at this, meet the hon. Gentleman and find out whether there are lessons to be learned.

These coaches will also signpost where training is available to enhance people’s hopes of getting into work or progressing in work. Obviously, the traditional job-searching work will be done and, for the first time, these coaches will also provide support for people as they go into work. A lot of people coming off benefits will go into relatively or very low-paid work and will not necessarily have the confidence or skills to push themselves forward to get roles with higher wages. For the first time, these coaches will keep in touch with those people and say, for example, “You have turned up for work for three months; why don’t you now try to go for a supervisor role or increase your hours?”

Crucially, for people with fluctuating health conditions the benefit is in real time, so if people can work fewer hours one week than another, they will have a minimum income. The process goes from there, so if they do more hours, the income increases. This system removes the 16-hour cliff edge that was preventing people from benefiting.

Today’s debate is predominantly about ESA WRAG. Before I comment about that, I pay tribute, as I did yesterday, to the fantastic work of the staff in jobcentres, support groups such the Shaw Trust and Pluss, and the many local charities and national charities that provide support. They do a huge amount of brilliant work and often go unrecognised. ESA has had so many reviews and changes, yet still only 1% of people come off the benefit every month. That cannot be described as doing anything other than failing the people who are on it. A number of speakers highlighted the fact that people are typically on ESA for two years, whereas someone on JSA would expect to get into work much sooner. Bizarrely, people on JSA, who are closer to the jobs market, would get 710 minutes of professional support, whereas those on ESA, who are recognised as further away from the jobs market, would get only 105 minutes of that support. Some of the changes that are being introduced will equalise the position. It is crucial that we identify what people can do, not what they cannot do.

We are all different, and we all have challenges in our lives. Some people have more challenges than others, but most have an opportunity with the right support. The Green Paper is welcome, because it highlights the significance of that “can do” approach. We have to offer personalised and tailored support to give everybody an opportunity. Crucially, the major charities, including Scope, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the National Autistic Society and Mencap, as well as many other charities, right down to the smaller ones, will be contributing to the development and delivery of this policy. They will make a big difference.