Universal Credit Roll-out: Personal Finances

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 Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central 12:00 am, 19th November 2018

What recent assessment her Department has made of the effect of the roll-out of universal credit on the personal finances of claimants.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Universal credit allows claimants to work and earn more, and the evidence is that people on universal credit are moving into work faster. We believe that everyone who can work should be given every support to get into work. That is what the job coaches are doing.

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central

The Child Poverty Action Group found that almost half of those moving on to universal credit needed support, which is often not available, to set up their claim. If they miss their deadline, they receive no transitional protection and no back-dated credit, and they have to wait a further five weeks for payment. With the new Secretary of State leading the Department, is it not time for the Government to pause the roll-out of this benefit and look again at wiping out these very, very serious wrongs in the system?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

If the individual claimant is vulnerable, there can be backdating, but for those who need extra support, there are advances of 100% from day one and also budgeting support. We are creating a brand new partnership with Citizens Advice to deliver a better universal support service.

Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Westminster North

New figures confirm that one in five jobs in London is now low-paid—below the London living wage. That is the highest proportion there has ever been, so working people are also in poverty and need the protection of universal credit, yet the qualifying period is casting many families into very severe hardship. What action will the Minister take to deal with that problem so that people can understand that work will pay, rather than casting them further into hardship?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The hon. Lady will be aware that the Government introduced the living wage, which is enhanced annually, and that we raised the tax threshold, which assisted individuals. She will also be aware that there is child support for education and that we are freezing fuel duty. All these cost-of-living measures have been of assistance to local people.

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The UN’s damaging report highlights Wales as having the worst poverty rate in the UK, but because social security powers are not devolved to Wales, the Welsh Government are scarcely able to replicate the Scottish Government’s excellent work in alleviating Westminster-driven poverty. Will the Minister commit to stopping the roll-out in Wales until the present problems are resolved and propose the devolution of universal credit powers to enable our country’s Government to reduce poverty and suffering?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My understanding is that 46 out of 59 offices in Wales have now rolled out the full UC service. The hon Lady will be aware that household incomes have never been higher and that 1 million fewer people are living in absolute poverty compared with in 2010, including 300,000 children.