Backbench Business

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:08 pm on 16th March 2017.

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Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 4:08 pm, 16th March 2017

I am certainly not trying to mislead and I do not think I am misleading. I reassure the hon. Lady that the Department for Work and Pensions, in common with others, does staff and resource planning that takes into account all the different demands that will be made on our services, and that includes the fact that, as a number of Members have mentioned, in universal credit there is the opportunity to work more closely with people, with the workload that that will involve, to encourage more people into work. Of course, that is all part of the plans and not something additional that has not been considered.

The hon. Lady mentioned work with, for example, lone mums on income support. There is also work with partners, as Margaret Greenwood mentioned, and then work with people in work, the self-employed and so on. I should add that some of those offers are in development, and we will adjust and evolve the operation of the offer to optimise it as time goes on. However, of course the assumptions on the amount of workload involved are reflected in the plans.

It is right that we reflect not only the impact of the digital revolution in meeting our claimants’ needs but the realities of a more flexible labour market and significant falls in unemployment since 2010. The employment rate is at a new record high: there are more people in work than ever before. We had the statistics on the unemployment rate come out just yesterday: they have hit a 12-year low. In fact, the last time the unemployment rate was lower than what was announced yesterday was in the mid-1970s. Of course, we always have to consider that things in the world will change. That is also considered in the planning assumptions made by the Department.