Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Poverty in Liverpool — [Mr Gary Streeter in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:48 pm on 24th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 3:48 pm, 24th October 2018

That is not what I am saying at all. I said I would come to food banks. The hon. Lady has not been to a jobcentre to talk to work coaches and see what they have to say. [Interruption.] I know that other hon. Members have.

The key is that the legacy benefits are not some panacea, where everything is great. As constituency MPs, we all know from our casework that legacy benefits are complex, involving three different agencies—HMRC, local government, and the DWP jobcentre—and frankly, one would need to be a nuclear physicist to deal with all three.

Over 700,000 families on legacy benefits were, on average, missing out on £285 of support that they were entitled to, worth a total of £2.4 billion. [Interruption.] Maria Eagle is heckling from the sides again, but these are some of the most vulnerable people, and my role as the Minister is to represent them. I have seen in my casework, as a genuine local resident in my constituency, as the MP and, formerly, a councillor, that some people were overwhelmed by the legacy system. Under universal credit, they will have for the first time a named work coach who will stick with them throughout the process to ensure that they are not missing out. That does not mean that universal credit has been perfect—we have had many debates and there have already been many changes. In some cases, under tax credits and legacy benefits we had tax rates of 90%. I know that would please the Leader of the Opposition, but that is not what the decent public want. There were 16, 24 and 30-hour cliff edges, which created a barrier to people progressing in work. The legacy benefits were seeing £2.4 billion-worth of support missed. We cannot knowingly stand by and say, “We’ve got to stop universal credit,” because these are vulnerable people missing out on money.

We are conscious that we have had to make changes to the migration. We have always said that the roll-out of universal credit will be slow and steady—it is a “test and learn”. In last year’s autumn statement, we rightly announced that we would remove the seven-day waiting list, a welcome change that was called for by a cross-party campaign.

A lot of the cases brought up involve people who have not had access to money. We realised that people did not know that the system was not designed to provide advance benefits, so it is now a given that the work coach will push that information in the initial interview.

Anybody currently receiving housing benefit will now get two weeks of housing benefit in addition—no strings attached—which can then be used. We recognised that we should not presume in all cases that they should take full responsibility for paying their housing benefit, so we now offer, particularly where people’s housing benefit payments are sent directly to their landlords.

We have launched the Landlord Portal, which is very much welcomed by local government and housing associations, and we have protected the severe disability premium. In conjunction with the £3 billion-worth of transitional support in place, over one million disabled families will be on average £110 a month better off.