Universal Credit Roll-out

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 11th February 2019.

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Photo of Martyn Day Martyn Day Scottish National Party, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

What recent progress she has made on the roll-out of universal credit.

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

We have now successfully rolled out universal credit full service across the country, with 1.6 million people now claiming universal credit. For the next phase, referred to as “managed migration,” we will test and refine our approach in a pilot, with up to 10,000 people moving from legacy benefits to universal credit. That pilot will start in July 2019.

Photo of Martyn Day Martyn Day Scottish National Party, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

It has now been a calendar month since the High Court found the DWP unlawful in its universal credit work assessment periods, yet hard-pressed families are still being penalised for receiving payments on a four-weekly basis. Will the Secretary of State give a commitment to make a statement to this House on how to rectify that appalling anomaly?

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

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point but, as he is aware, the Department is considering the High Court judgment carefully—I have said this before in the House—and it therefore would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling

Can the Minister confirm that, because of the Budget, there will be £4.5 billion available in additional measures over the next couple of years?

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

Yes, we set out in the last Budget that there will be £4.5 billion available, with a large amount of that obviously coming through the increase in work allowances.

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle

As the Minister knows, universal credit has now been rolled out in Hull. A constituent, who has had an incredibly troubled life, came to see me on Friday. During his time he has suffered from addiction, he has been sleeping on the street and he has had convictions. The good news is that, not long ago, he walked through the doors of the Jubilee Church in Hull, and people there have been giving him support. He is now on an 18-month rehabilitation course. However, he has been told that, at the same time, he has to actively look for work. Surely the Minister would agree that while this young man is on a rehabilitation course—an opportunity for him to turn his life around—he should not also have to prove that he is actively searching for work.

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

Easements are, of course, available. I am happy to sit down and discuss the specifics of this case with the hon. Lady to see what may be possible.

Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

On the evening of 14 January, the Government announced that, from this May, mixed-aged couples on a low income will no longer be able to claim pension credit when the older partner reaches state pension age and will have to claim universal credit instead. Couples affected could lose out by up to £7,000 a year, and the Conservative party manifesto pledged to safeguard pensioner benefits. Why have the Government broken that pledge?

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

Of course, we are safeguarding pensioner benefits overall.

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

If the hon. Lady would kindly listen, what I am saying is that the long-agreed change for mixed-age couples was voted on and agreed by Parliament in 2012. We should also be clear that mixed-age couples already claiming pension-age, income-related benefits at the point of change will not be affected, so long as they remain entitled.