Results 1–20 of 1153 for (in the 'Commons debates' OR in the 'Westminster Hall debates' OR in the 'Lords debates' OR in the 'Northern Ireland Assembly debates') speaker:Alok Sharma

Work and Pensions Committee (8 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his report. I have appeared before the Work and Pensions Committee in the past few days, and a number of the points raised in the report were raised in that session. I will of course consider the report, and my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury has indicated that we will work closely together on reviewing its content.

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: In Glasgow, where this is particularly relevant, we started with 16 jobcentres that, on average, were only 40% utilised—small, half-empty offices that made it challenging to create a welcoming and positive environment. Back in 2010, with nearly 25,000 claimants, this may have been suitable, but it clearly no longer is. This dated estate across the country comes at a significant cost....

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: I think I have made the point about co-location. We are having an estate that is fit for the 21st century. Where a new jobcentre was over 3 miles and 20 minutes away by public transport, online public consultation was held, as hon. Members will know, and we operated on evidence, and we listened and took action as a result. For example, we are introducing a new employability suite at Atlantic...

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels that there is sarcasm in what I am saying. That is certainly not my intent, and I do not think it is the intent of the DWP staff who have sent us feedback. I can give the hon. Gentleman a list of the things that staff and claimants have said about the moves involving Broxburn and Anniesland. Perhaps things are not quite as some Members feel that they are.

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: No. I want to continue. Claimants moving to Springburn have reported how much better the facilities are, and how welcoming the environment is. Claimants have also said that they have appreciated the individual tailored support. For instance, during the recently completed move of Anniesland to Drumchapel, some claimants who preferred to move to Partick instead were easily accommodated. The...

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: I do not think that the people who are working incredibly hard in these jobcentres would appreciate being referred to as bigwigs. Since becoming the Minister in this particular role, I have been to a number of jobcentres, not in Scotland but in England, and I can tell the House that those people are extremely motivated to help the people whom they are serving and helping to get into work. I...

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: I have no figures in front of me now, but I undertake to write to the hon. Gentleman if these figures are available within the system. The hon. Member for Glasgow East mentioned gangs. That is an important point. As part of our consultation, we engaged with Community Safety Glasgow and the Glasgow City Council strategic community partnership group, and they were not aware of any gang-related...

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have moved to this post in the last few weeks, but I understand that a dialogue takes place with Police Scotland. The hon. Gentleman also raised the issue of people who cannot access online services and find it hard to get to a jobcentre. Face-to-face support with work coaches is available at jobcentres and continues to be a core part of the service we deliver....

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) on securing this important debate, and I thank all Members for the kindness that they have shown by inviting me to their constituencies. I have never felt quite so loved by Opposition Members as I have this evening.

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: That is what worries me. Employment in the United Kingdom is at a record level. In the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, the claimant count has dropped by 50% since 2010. That drop has been replicated across Glasgow city, where there has been a fall of 11,000 in the number of claimants since 2010 to just 13,500 today. In Scotland as a whole, unemployment has fallen by 107,000 since 2010,...

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: Because of the timing of the debate, I have plenty of time to respond to a whole range of issues that have been raised, and I will try to do so throughout my speech. As I was saying, as the unemployment rate has fallen, the use of jobcentres has also dropped. Right now, across the whole country, there is a 30% under-utilisation of the Jobcentre Plus estate. It is therefore absolutely right...

Committees: Jobcentre Closures (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: I was coming to co-location. Our proposals seek to reduce the floor space we occupy in Glasgow while retaining sites and locations that are accessible to all residents. Of course, we explored options for co-location in sites that we are retaining, but we were not able to identify suitable locations in Glasgow. Motion lapsed ( Standing Order No. 9(3)). Motion made, and Question proposed, That...

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions: Universal Credit: Household Debt (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: The Government have taken a number of steps to reduce the risk of problem debt, including capping payday lending costs and promoting savings. Within universal credit, we also have interest-free advances and a system of priority deductions to help claimants who have got into arrears.

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions: Universal Credit: Household Debt (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: Of course the hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight that we want to make sure we help those who are in arrears. She will know that research done by the National Federation of ALMOs—arm’s length management organisations—has reported that three quarters of tenants were in rent arrears already before they moved into universal credit. She talks about deductions; the...

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions: Universal Credit: Household Debt (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: Yes, I can confirm that work coaches and those who perform the interviews at jobcentres make people aware that they can access 100% advances, which are of course interest free, as I said. The other aspect that is available is personal budgeting support, which individuals who need it can also receive.

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions: Universal Credit (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: Universal credit transforms the welfare state and the rollout is proceeding to plan, with universal credit now available in one third of all jobcentres in Great Britain.

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions: Universal Credit (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: When we have rolled out universal credit, we have done it in a manner that makes sense and works. Right now, 9% of those who will eventually end up on universal credit are on universal credit, and it will reach 11% by June this year. I am, of course, undertaking a whole range of visits to jobcentres across the country. I will make sure that I make a visit to Scotland, and we can have a...

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions: Universal Credit (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: I want to be absolutely clear: the changes that we are making in universal credit and in the benefit system are there to focus on protecting the most vulnerable. That is the underlying policy of universal credit and we will continue to do that.

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions: Universal Credit (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: Currently, 1.1 million young people—students—receive free school meals. If the policy that has been put forward as part of the consultation goes ahead—where there is an earnings threshold of £7,400—an additional 50,000 young people will benefit from free school meals.

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions: Topical Questions (5 Feb 2018)

Alok Sharma: Through universal credit, we are providing personal budgeting support, which is available through conversations with work coaches. That is making a great difference to those who need such help.


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