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Welfare Changes

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Marie Rimmer Marie Rimmer Labour, St Helens South and Whiston 12:00 am, 24th October 2018

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effect on people in Wales of the UK Government’s recent changes to welfare benefits.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Defence)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effect on people in Wales of the UK Government’s recent changes to welfare benefits.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

Our welfare reforms are incentivising work and supporting working families. The employment rate in Wales is at a record high, and the unemployment rate is at a record low. We will continue to take a test and learn approach, acting on feedback and improving the system as it rolls out.

Photo of Marie Rimmer Marie Rimmer Labour, St Helens South and Whiston

Why are this Government determined to press ahead with managed migration against the advice of more than 80 disability organisations, the Resolution Foundation and the National Audit Office that they should not do so until the major flaws in the universal credit system are sorted so that it can cope with the higher claimant volumes?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I dispute its premise. This is a personal, focused benefit, which offers us an opportunity to help people with health conditions, provide tailored support from work coaches, assist with housing costs, and give advances. We are listening and responding during the roll-out. This is a huge change in a complicated system, and we are testing and learning, but above all we are helping people.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Defence)

Universal credit is a shambles. In my constituency, a homeless gentleman was told that phone claims for universal credit were not allowed, and that claims must be online only, although he has no access to IT or a computer. Vulnerability was not considered, and, ironically, the man was even offered a home visit. Will the Minister urge DWP colleagues to reconsider the online system and reintroduce phone claims?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

There is an opportunity to make phone claims. I would be happy to hear about that constituency case, although it is very concerning. This benefit is about ensuring that people are better off in work, and are able to respond in particular circumstances. In the Cwmbran jobcentre, positives are being fed back in terms of adjustments and simplification on the ground. If that is not happening in this gentleman’s case, will the hon. Gentleman please let me know?

Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Conservative, Redditch

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a shame that Labour Members fail to recognise the transformative effect of universal credit in lifting people out of poverty and getting them back into work? That is in stark contrast to Labour’s approach, which left people trapped on benefits for decades or more.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend is exactly right about the myriad complex reasons for which people may struggle to get back into work. The reason may involve personal circumstances, it may involve long-term legacy benefits, it may involve skills, or, indeed, it may involve confidence. With this project of universal credit, if we continue to scare people off approaching jobcentres and making use of advice—budgeting advice, and the advice of work coaches—then we will not be listening and learning from the people whom the Labour party has left to fester on legacy benefits, and that will not help anyone.

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I, too, welcome the Minister to her post. Does she agree that the Government’s welfare reforms show that people are better off in work, and that it is the best route out of poverty?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

I absolutely agree. From Witney to Torbay, people are getting into work more quickly, staying in work longer and progressing in work, which is very important. We are listening and learning. This is a huge change, but we do not need to row back. Claimants are getting into work and staying in work, and, as we know from the Prime Minister, the route out of poverty is having a job.