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I am going to try to whizz through my points in the short time available, Madam Deputy Speaker. Worryingly, no impact assessments on UC have been produced since 2011. UC has changed a lot since then and it is now a very different system. If it is a “test and learn” system, why have we not seen these assessments coming through? Where is the learning in that?
My local citizens advice bureau manager has sent me a message ahead of today’s debate, saying:
“Universal Credit’s big impact is on people’s mental health. We are seeing so many people who cannot deal with UC due to the fragility of their mental health. It’s making underlying mental health worse. We are aware of clients attempting suicide due to the anxiety of the whole thing.”
That is worrying, but it is also worrying that in response to my multiple parliamentary questions asking whether there are any statistics on the link between suicide attempts or suicide, and UC, I have been told that there is no data on that at all. I am very concerned about that, too.
I held a local roundtable to pull together different charities, organisations, people on UC and the Public and Commercial Services Union to talk about the issues. It recommended a delay on the repayment of advance payments—that was mentioned by a Conservative Member. We spoke about the digital aspect, which has been spoken about a lot. Yes, it can be an ambition to upskill people digitally, but what about those who cannot access digital, cannot get online or are unable to use it? Many people come in to my office and to my local jobcentre and we help them to get on to the system, but the issue then is about maintaining their claim and getting notifications about meetings and things like that. I therefore urge a review of the digital aspect, too.
During today’s Prime Minister’s questions, I spoke about split payments and asked the Prime Minister what her thoughts were about those. I have raised that issue a few times and spoke about it in last week’s Westminster Hall debate. When I have asked the Minister who is on the Front Bench today, the Prime Minister and the Minister who responded last week about this, I keep getting the response, “Oh, you can request a split payment.” That just does not take any consideration of what someone living in an abusive relationship might be going through, so I urge an urgent rethink on that.