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Universal Credit

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st November 2016.

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Photo of John Glen John Glen Conservative, Salisbury 12:00 am, 21st November 2016

What progress his Department is making on the roll-out of universal credit.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Last week, we announced the remainder of the roll-out of universal credit full service through to September 2018. Universal credit is now being delivered in every jobcentre and local authority, with over 400,000 claimants now receiving it.

Photo of John Glen John Glen Conservative, Salisbury

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Given that one is more likely to be employed, to work more and to earn more on universal credit than on JSA, will he confirm, on the mechanics and progress of the roll-out, that the test-and-learn approach is enabling difficulties to be quickly identified and resolved so that the roll-out can be delivered smoothly in the next few months?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend is right to point out the technical aspects of the roll-out. We have always been clear that an undertaking of this size and scale would be bound to meet obstacles. That was precisely why we adopted the test-and-learn approach which, I am glad to report, has worked. We have listened to issues raised by our staff and officials, and by claimants and other stakeholders. We now have a solid foundation. Universal credit is delivered in every jobcentre and local authority area. As I said, 400,000 claimants are now receiving it and being supported to build a better future for themselves.

Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

The UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is on 25 November. Universal credit is normally paid to a single person within a couple, but that can cause major problems for women or men in an abusive relationship, and asking for split payments could exacerbate the difficulties for someone in that situation. Will the Secretary of State consider automatically splitting payments for each partner in a couple?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I suspect that automatically splitting payments would introduce many technical difficulties and cause more problems than it solves. In individual instances, it is possible to split the payments to deal with problems including that which the hon. Lady rightly identifies. However, automatically splitting payments would probably not be practical.

Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness

Vulnerable people in supported housing particularly stand to benefit from the roll-out of universal credit, if it is done in the right way. When I went to visit the Salvation Army housing association in Skegness, there was concern about whether support would be in place to ensure that people spend the money over which they now have control in the best way. What support will be available to ensure that we get that right?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I pay tribute to the Salvation Army for its work in my hon. Friend’s constituency, in my constituency, where it has just celebrated its 125th anniversary, and throughout the country. We have developed a personal budgeting strategy to ensure that claimants have access to money advice in the transition to universal credit. A small minority might need alternative payment arrangements, which can be set up in various forms. Particularly in the housing sphere, that is a necessary part of the flexibility that we have with universal credit, so that a small minority who may not be able to cope with the way in which it is normally delivered are helped.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland Office)

I am dealing with a universal credit case whereby a constituent has been left near-destitute. Following his application, the DWP has alleged that he is not a British citizen, despite the fact that he has an English birth certificate and other proof of his citizenship. Will the Minister meet me to discuss this case to help my constituent and to stop this happening to anyone else as universal credit is rolled out?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am always happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss individual cases. Alternatively, if she wants to write to me, I will ensure this is dealt with as quickly as possible.