Universal Credit: Getting People into Work

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th November 2018.

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Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education) 12:00 am, 19th November 2018

What steps she is taking to measure progress on her Department’s objective of getting 200,000 more people into work through universal credit.

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Under the universal credit business case, we expect universal credit to deliver an economic benefit of £8 billion a year in steady state, and result in 200,000 more people moving into work. We published a labour market evaluation strategy on 8 June, setting out how these impacts will be measured.

Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

I thank the Minister for his answer, but a recent Public Accounts Committee report on universal credit found that the Department, as it has in fact admitted, cannot empirically measure the number of people who are going back to work. I welcome the new Secretary of State to her place, but may I encourage her to read this report? How on earth, if the data are not reliable, can we meaningfully achieve any kind of target?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I encourage the hon. Lady to look at the document we have published about what we will be doing to measure this number. However, I also point her to the record levels of employment: the fact that there are more people in work in the economy right now than ever before, and that unemployment is at a 43-year record low. Jobs are being created and people are moving into work, and that is largely due to the welfare reforms that we have introduced.

Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Conservative, Redditch

Will the Minister elaborate on how much better off families on universal credit are now as a result of measures introduced in the Budget?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Earlier this year we introduced £1.5 billion of support, and in the Budget there was £4.5 billion of support. I say to Opposition Members that it is all very well calling for support, but they also have to vote for these measures, which they never actually do.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee

The Minister knows that there are huge problems with the roll-out of universal credit in terms of debt, hardship and rent arrears. The new Secretary of State, whom I congratulate on her new post, needs to take time to look at those problems and address the severe poverty that is being caused, not to dismiss the UN report. I urge her and all the Work and Pensions Ministers to halt the roll-out. It will hit my constituency at the end of this month, and frankly, people are deeply worried that we are going to see delays, debt and hardship at Christmas. I urge Ministers: halt this roll-out now.

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I hope that the right hon. Lady would also recognise that there are 1 million fewer people living in absolute poverty now than in 2010, when she was in government. If she is concerned about her constituents, I would be happy to talk to her and her local jobcentre to provide them with the assurances that they need.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

The target is getting 200,000 extra people into work through universal credit. How many have been delivered so far?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Since the hon. Gentleman is keen to talk about the number of people in work, I point him to the universal credit claimant survey, which we published in June. It showed that under universal credit, employment levels almost double between the point of the claim and nine months into it.