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Universal Credit Roll-out

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th March 2018.

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Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 12:00 am, 26th March 2018

What assessment she has made of the efficacy of the roll-out of universal credit.

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Universal credit is a modern flexible benefit which provides tailored support to claimants. Three separate research studies show that UC is having a positive impact on employer outcomes. The changes announced in the Budget are giving even more support for claimants.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

Before Christmas, many on the Opposition Benches predicted disaster as more of our constituents claimed their benefits through universal credit. In fact—and I believe the changes made by the DWP have made a significant difference—the early anecdotal evidence in Gloucestershire, from the Jobcentre Plus and Gloucester City Homes, is that things are moving smoothly ahead. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is broadly the case across the country, and that the introduction of trusted landlords is making a significant improvement to relationships with housing associations, and will she do more to roll that out?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend is correct. Three independent studies are saying that universal credit is getting people into work quicker, and that they are staying in work longer and also looking for more work. He is exactly right about the trusted partner status. The reason he has started to do extra work with his jobcentre, looking at tenants who might not have a roof over their head, was the false information cited in Prime Minister’s questions by Jeremy Corbyn, who said that one in eight would be evicted. That was not the case, and, as we are seeing, people are now getting into work and their homes are being protected.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

I ask the Secretary of State not to give an immediate reply to this question but to ponder it. The Secretary of State has told me that the 98 members of jobcentre staff on temporary contracts in Birkenhead are going to be laid off because they have come to the end of their contract period. Unlike Gloucester, we are having real problems with the roll-out of universal credit. I had five cases last week, including one involving a woman who had been reduced to living on 7p. Might not some, if not all, of those staff be redeployed to ensure a smooth transition from traditional benefits to the new one?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman saying that I could speak to and work with him to see what is happening in Birkenhead. What I know is that we on this side of the House brought forward up to 100% advances, so that anyone in need of money could have it. We have also stopped the waiting days, and from April we are providing the two-week housing payment. That is what we on this side of the House have done to protect the most vulnerable, but the Opposition voted against it.

Photo of Craig Tracey Craig Tracey Conservative, North Warwickshire

I recently visited jobcentre staff in Bedworth to see how universal credit was helping my constituents. I was delighted to hear of encouraging examples of success, including one claimant who had been helped into work within weeks. Under the previous system, she would have waited months to get the same help. Does this not show that universal credit is acting faster to transform lives?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend is correct, and I want to thank him for going to meet people at his Jobcentre Plus and for speaking to the dedicated work coaches who are working tirelessly to help people to get into work. These are the tales that I am hearing. Universal credit is an in-work and out-of-work benefit. We are about getting people into a job and then helping them with progression, so that they can get into a job and have a career and also have job progression. That is why we have over 3 million more people in work.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Let me take this opportunity to tell the Secretary of State that in three of the eight wards in my constituency, child poverty is at over 50%. Universal credit has only just started to be rolled out, and it will only make things worse. Her Government are also going to take away free school meals— In the future, there will not be the access to free school meals that there is now. What is the level of child poverty that she is willing to support?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We have had this debate before, and this has been corrected many times. Actually, 50,000 more children are going to have free school meals. These scaremongering stories are not true at all. Let us look at what is happening. We now have 1 million fewer people in absolute poverty—a record low. We now have 300,000 fewer children in absolute poverty—a new record low. There are also 500,000 fewer working-age adults in absolute poverty—a record low. This Government are about helping people to get into work, which is the first step they can take towards taking control of their life. From there, they can have career progression.

Photo of Jeremy Quin Jeremy Quin Conservative, Horsham

I commend my right hon. Friend for the roll-out of universal credit. How does that compare with the debacle that was the implementation of tax credits under a previous Government?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Universal credit is working, and it had to be put in place, in part because the Opposition’s tax credits were a failure.