Covid-19: DWP Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:39 pm on 4th May 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 3:39 pm, 4th May 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. In terms of bureaucratic schemes, the Government have worked at pace to introduce brand new schemes in order to protect people right across the country. We have seen the success of the job retention scheme. The self-employed scheme is under way. Significant flexibility has been put into that system to help people who may not have had three years of earnings to give them time to submit their latest tax return promptly to get support.

There is a variety of analysis on universal basic income. The latest report I saw estimated it would cost over £400 billion a year. It is not targeted at the poorest in society and is not an appropriate way for us to try to distribute money. Instead, our schemes are focused on making sure that the poorest do get help.

On DWP staff being moved from department to department, we have made sure that we are monitoring performance and where there are increases in how long it takes to process certain kinds of payments I have made it clear to my officials that we then need to move people back. We are in the key peak of payments this week, with the largest uptake of applications, and I am confident that we will get through that with at least 90%, if not an even higher rate, of people getting their payments on time.

I have already answered the question about why the legacy benefits have not increased. On the question about making an advance a grant, that comes back to the principle that getting an advance effectively means people have 13 payments in a year instead of 12 to cover the annual allocation to which people are entitled. Nearly 700,000 people have received an advance, while nearly 1.8 million people have applied for universal credit and those others have not sought to have an advance. So it would not be fair to the other new claimants if one group of people got more money than they did simply because they had applied for an advance.

On the increasing use of food banks, extensive work is going on across Government. The Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend Will Quince, is involved in a taskforce on helping vulnerable people. I am conscious of the increase in food bank usage and the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Victoria Prentis, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are doing excellent work in making sure we can work with them to ensure food can get to the most vulnerable people in society. While recognising the increase in food bank usage, I point out that we have had a sixfold increase in the number of people claiming UC and we are making sure we get our money to them.