Universal Credit: Helping People into Work

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 7th January 2019.

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Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney

What assessment the Government have made of the effectiveness of universal credit in helping people into work.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

What assessment the Government have made of the effectiveness of universal credit in helping people into work.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

What assessment the Government have made of the effectiveness of universal credit in helping people into work.

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

There are many good reasons why universal credit is effective at helping people into work. The most important is that the legacy system disincentivised people from taking up work, often by applying a tax rate of 90% and above, while the taper rate under universal credit is more likely to be 63%, which enables people genuinely to get into work.

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney

Will my right hon. Friend join me in commending the hard work of the Witney jobcentre? Will she also explain how jobcentres like the one in Witney are using new technology to help people into work in the digital age?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank my hon. Friend for drawing this to my attention. I thank the Witney jobcentre for the work that it does in helping people into work, and I also thank him for his work on this as a Member of Parliament. Of course it is essential that we make advanced digital equipment available to our work coaches to ensure that the service they deliver really is first class, and we will always ensure that they do.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

At the Stourbridge jobcentre, the work coaches are evangelical about how the flexibility of universal credit allows them to better support the most vulnerable and the hardest-to-help claimants. Will the Secretary of State ensure that this best practice is shared around the country so that more people can find sustainable work for the first time?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank my hon. Friend for drawing my attention to the good work being done by the Stourbridge jobcentre and its work coaches. He really highlights the other true benefit of universal credit, which is the personalised approach. It is no longer about signing on; it is about individuals going to the jobcentres and being offered real, tailored support to help them to deal with their challenges and to get into work. This is a revolutionary system.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

Given that the planned objective of universal credit is to move people closer to and into the workplace, can the Secretary of State confirm that empirical, rather than anecdotal, evidence is being compiled on a national basis, and that it will be made available for public scrutiny so that the necessary adaptations can be made to ensure that universal credit ultimately achieves its goal?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend is right. Important though anecdotal evidence is—that is what MPs collect when they visit their job centres—it will also be absolutely critical to have full empirical evidence as well. In June last year, we published the universal credit full business case, which showed that universal credit will move more people into work. Once we have completed the managed migration pilot, we will also publish an impact assessment on the first phase.

Photo of Laura Smith Laura Smith Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Figures from the Trussell Trust show that food bank use increased significantly in the 12 months after the full-service roll-out of universal credit in Crewe and Nantwich. Universal credit was intended to lift people out of poverty. What has gone wrong?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I hope that the hon. Lady has seen an improvement since the roll-out started in Crewe and Nantwich

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I suspect that if she speaks to the jobcentre there, she will be reassured that the number of people being paid on time has vastly risen—

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I would ask the hon. Lady to come back to me, if she will, and to have a conversation about this. It is absolutely true that when universal credit initially started, the payments were not getting out in time and advance payments were not available. That is now being changed, and claimants are universally noticing a distinct difference.

Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Economy)

If the Secretary of State wants some empirical evidence, let me give her some: 55,410 people are on universal credit in Birmingham and food bank demand has increased by two thirds. Birmingham MPs, drawing upon our surgery experiences, have highlighted 13 different problems with the process. The Birmingham Mail has highlighted benefit delays of months on end. Unemployment in the inner city is not going down; it is actually going up. Rather than consider any further roll-out of managed migration, let us stop and fix the problems first before more families are plunged into poverty, homelessness and hunger.

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I was in Birmingham last Friday, when I went to the Yardley jobcentre and saw for myself the remarkable work being done and some projects that are reaching people who had never been reached before. Under the legacy benefits, the second named person in a household who was not earning was basically ignored for years and was not invited to participate. We now have a system whereby the people who were ignored for years under the right hon. Gentleman’s Government’s system are being obliged to engage. I am facing the facts, so perhaps he should face them as well. He can have his own views, but he cannot have his own facts.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

An interim report commissioned by Centrepoint shows that the Government’s youth obligation programme is failing young people on numerous counts. Almost half of participants dropped out without finding a job or training, young people on the programme were more likely to be sanctioned, many did not understand what the programme was for, and there is no central recording of job destinations beyond the programme. At what stage is the Secretary of State going to get a grip on that situation?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am not as despondent about the programme as the hon. Gentleman is. I visited Centrepoint between Christmas and new year to find out for myself about the good work it is doing and about the relationship that it has with the universal credit service provider. It has a particular named person who helps with young people to ensure that they get additional personal help when they apply. Ensuring that personal help is available is exactly what universal credit is about, and Centrepoint confirmed to me that that is exactly what young people are getting.