Universal Credit: Access to Legal Aid

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

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Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Labour, Birmingham, Ladywood

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on universal credit claims and access to legal aid.

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

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for access to legal aid, and we will continue to work closely with it as it reviews the means test for entitlement. However, that is not the only initiative on which we have been working together. For instance, I recently announced an ex-offenders pilot scheme, which will provide enhanced employment support and help with access to universal credit in order to lift people out of the cycle of reoffending.

Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Labour, Birmingham, Ladywood

Solicitors in my constituency have told me that the DWP is refusing to supply written confirmation in the precise legal format that is required for legal aid applications made by people on universal credit. It is a case of one Government body refusing to comply with the rules of another. Is the Secretary of State aware of how deep these problems go, and will she ensure that no universal credit claimant misses out on legal aid because the DWP cannot follow the rules of the Ministry of Justice?

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

I am surprised to hear that question from the hon. Lady. According to my experience and the evidence that I have received during my conversations with the Ministry of Justice, there is no problem and it has been possible to passport in the same way. I hope that that will continue, but, as the hon. Lady knows, the Ministry of Justice is conducting a review. If she will write to me about that particular case, I will look at it myself.