To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the report published by the Trussell Trust on 5 October 2018 entitled The next stages of Universal Credit, what steps the Government plans to take to ensure that people switching to universal credit do not fall into food poverty.
We work closely with The Trussell Trust and welcome their feedback. It is worth noting that much of their analysis was carried out before the improvements we announced at Autumn Budget 2017, and which were introduced earlier this year. The comprehensive and wide-ranging package worth £1.5 billion to help people in their first assessment period included, the abolition of waiting days, the introduction of advances up to 100% of a claimant’s indicative award (repayable over a period of up to 12 months), and a two week transitional payment for those previously claiming Housing Benefit.
The Trust welcomed our changes in the Budget saying they would “ease the pressure on thousands of households on very low incomes” and “shows that Government is listening”.
Earlier this month, we announced a new partnership with Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland to deliver Universal Support. We want to make sure that the most vulnerable people get the best possible support when claiming Universal Credit. Citizens Advice will help deliver a high-quality and consistent service to people claiming Universal Credit, to assist them manage their claim, get paid on time and budget effectively. This was welcomed by the Trussell Trust.
As part of the managed migration regulations which will come before Parliament in the autumn, we have proposed transitional protection for the 500,000 individuals currently receiving the Severe Disability Premium. It should also be noted that in the legacy benefits system there are £2.4bn of unclaimed benefits not taken up by people who need them, because they do not know about them. These regulations will ensure that 700,000 more households will get paid their full entitlement under Universal Credit.
We do not underestimate the challenge that managed migration represents and we are working closely with stakeholders to design the best solution. Our focus will be on safeguarding claimants and ensuring a smooth transition with uninterrupted support. The draft regulations have been out for consultation with the Social Security Advisory Committee and will be subject to scrutiny and approval by Parliament. During 2019 we will test and refine our processes on a small scale to ensure they are working well before we take on larger volumes from 2020 onwards, and complete the process in 2023.