Universal Credit: Disabled People

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 18th March 2019.

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Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons)

What assessment her Department has made of the financial effect of universal credit on disabled people.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

What assessment her Department has made of the effect of the introduction of universal credit on disabled people.

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

More people who are severely disabled will receive higher payments under universal credit. This means that around 1 million disabled households will gain on average around £100 more per month on universal credit than on legacy benefits. The universal credit rate for the most disabled people is up to £328.32, which is up from the employment and support allowance level of £163.15.

Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons)

I have a constituent with a severe brain injury who applied for universal credit in August 2018 and immediately lost his severe disability premium. Since then, he has lost over £1,500 in benefits. What are the Government doing to ensure that extremely vulnerable claimants who have lost their severe disability premium are given the back payments to which they are entitled?

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

If the hon. Lady writes to me personally, I will ensure that officials sit down with her and go through what seems to be a very difficult case. I have suffered from a brain injury, so I know the difficulties involved. The hon. Lady will be aware that the transitional payment and the gateway are available for those receiving the severe disability premium, and that these elements provide protection long-term. Over 1,200 staff are working to ensure that repayments are made.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

Our experience in Sheffield is that many people with learning disabilities cannot manage digital applications and are not easily granted access to non-digital routes, and that others who start on digital applications with support, but struggle once they are on their own, are not allowed to return to non-digital routes. Will the Minister therefore agree to assess demand for non-digital applications, and to publish clear guidance for jobcentres to make it easier for people with learning disabilities to be granted access to non-digital claims?

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

It is a pleasure to answer this question, because both the hon. Gentleman, who is a friend of mine, and I have suffered from the disabling effects of brain tumour. The House will be aware that this is Brain Tumour Awareness Month and that it is Wear A Hat Day on Friday. I will ensure that the points he raises are addressed. He will be aware of the help to claim service, which is already in existence, and of the work that we are doing with Citizens Advice, which will come up to speed in April. A great deal of effort is also going into home visits for vulnerable claimants. However, he raises a legitimate point that we will most definitely look into.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The Employment Minister will recall the case of my constituent Ben Seaman, who received a payment following underpayment of ESA; his parent was concerned that as a result, he would be unable to receive ESA in future. I am very grateful for the letter that the Secretary of State has written to me, which arrived today. Will the Minister confirm that those transferring from ESA to universal credit, who have to log this collection of underpayment within a month, will be told in advance of transferring?

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

I am delighted to hear about the very welcome development that has been communicated by the Secretary of State today. I can confirm what the Employment Minister has set out today, and I am delighted that this progress has been made.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

I am glad that 145,000 more people with disabilities have found work in the last 12 months, leading to a total of 930,000 moving into work in the last five years. Does the Minister agree that the Government’s declared target of helping 1 million people with disabilities into work could be rather more ambitious than it is?

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

One million is a great start, but I believe that there is capability for more. I encourage all employers up and down the country to consider the many talented disabled people who want to join the workforce. The numbers are up all over the country already, as my hon. Friend outlines, but there is a lot more that can be done.

Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Mental Health)

Those with disabilities have been contacting me from across the United Kingdom in my position as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for disability, telling me that they still find it extremely difficult to access home assessment for benefits, and that they are then being penalised by having to provide GP letters, for which they are charged. Will the Minister respond to this situation and ensure that these people are not being penalised twice for their disability when accessing the benefits system?

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

I am happy to assure the hon. Lady that her concerns will be taken up by the Department; a Minister will meet her to go through her complaint.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

I was recently visited by a constituent who was very distressed during his personal independence payment assessment because he felt that the assessor had not understood his case or his records and did not have the full facts. When will we introduce video recordings, so that our assessors can be held to account?

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

My hon. Friend raises a legitimate point. Video recording is an important step forward introduced by this Government. The pilot from last November appears successful, and we are looking to do a full roll-out later this year.