Universal Credit: Working People’s Incomes

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 1st July 2019.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

What steps her Department is taking to increase working people’s incomes through universal credit.

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

One of the key transformations that universal credit provides is to support people who are in work, ensuring they can increase their earnings and develop in their career. It removes the 16-hour cliff edge, which held so many back on legacy benefits, and gives improved, tailored support through jobcentre work coaches.

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

Will the Minister join me in thanking the excellent DWP staff on the Isle of Wight, some of whom I met in Newport a few weeks ago? I am sure he and the team will seek to make further improvements to universal credit, but it was clear to me, talking to those staff, that universal credit enables them to do more good for more people than the inflexible system that preceded it.

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

I thank my hon. Friend for being a huge champion for the Isle of Wight and working so well with his local jobcentre. I am very pleased about that and he is absolutely right. As a result of universal credit, people are able to get the support—that one-to-one support—that is so vital. Since 2016, an extra £10 billion has gone into the system.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

My constituent, Amanda, who is a single mum with significant mental health problems, had her UC claim closed—unknown to her—at the beginning of May. She was told by the DWP that this was a sanction because she failed to complete an online review. I should also mention that she was in the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Given that Amanda is clearly a vulnerable person, will the Secretary of State commit to ensure that all work coaches are aware of their obligations following last year’s High Court judgment, which demands that they should treat vulnerable claimants appropriately?

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

Of course. The Secretary of State, I and all colleagues want to ensure that absolutely every single person claiming universal credit gets the appropriate support and the right level of support. I would be very happy to look at that individual case with the hon. Lady. I would just say on sanctions that these are not just handed out; there is a clear process. I can tell her that, in February 2019, only 2.45% of those who were under conditionality requirements actually had a sanction and the average sanction’s length was 30 days. But I will look at that case for her.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

My constituent, Craig Ferguson, has Asperger’s, but works in retail. He broke his leg, was not entitled to statutory sick pay and was advised to switch to UC. He then lost his severe disability premium. His UC has automatic deductions for an employment support allowance overpayment and, at times, he receives no UC award at all, which means that he has to depend on savings. How is that fair? Can his case be reviewed?

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

Of course, I am happy to look at that individual case. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will get in touch with my office after this session.