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Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 — Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 13th February 2013.

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Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 10:00 pm, 13th February 2013

We are not defining this by saying that they are vulnerable people; we are asking how many touch points of support people have. The four groups that have a large number of touch points are people who are homeless or who have mental health problems, addiction problems or learning difficulties. They are the groups about whom I have particular concern about making sure there is support for them. The noble Baroness will have her own figures on how big those groups are. We are working to get them refined. I will be able to provide more information on this as we work our way through. We are doing an enormous amount of work in this area, as noble Lords can see from the piloting we are doing and from how we have built up this network with the local support services. This is an area of great activity.

The noble Lord, Lord Bach, made an impassioned speech. Clearly, legal aid will still be available for appeals to the upper tier on a point of law. In our view, the first tier does not require legal representation because it is not adversarial. We are hoping that one of the things that mandatory reconsideration will do is mean that many applicants do not need to proceed to appeal. We are actively working on getting the right advice services locally.

These reforms are necessary and will not lose sight of the overarching policy drivers, but clearly we will go on listening and learning. I hope that noble Lords leave this debate thinking that the department's decision-making and appeals structure is robust, fit for purpose and ready for the introduction of UC and PIP.

Motion agreed.