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Universal Credit

Volume 552: debated on Monday 5 November 2012

24. What discussions his Department has had with Baroness Grey-Thompson following the publication of her report on the effect on disabled people of the introduction of universal credit. (126321)

Since Baroness Grey-Thompson’s report was released, I have attended meetings with her twice where the contents of her report have been discussed.

“Holes in the Safety Net”, the report just mentioned, indicated that about 450,000 disabled people lose out under the universal credit rules. This number was also raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Dame Anne Begg), the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, in a recent Westminster Hall debate that the Minister attended. Will she listen to these two highly respected women and amend her plans?

We have been listening very much. We found some of the reports to be highly selective and quite skewed. They did not take into consideration how much extra support was going to people with disabilities, but we are listening, there is transitional protection and we will be releasing the assessment criteria later in the year.

The Minister has no doubt read today’s copy of Bradford’s The Telegraph and Argos and the letter from Mr Barry Thorne about his son. He felt compelled to write the letter following the comments from Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson. The fear is that those with clearly defined medical concerns, such as his son Stephen, will feel threatened and fearful at the prospect of reapplying and being interviewed. Are those fears unfounded?

I believe that those fears are unfounded. Everybody tries to put information into the public arena that is meant to help, but frequently they do not, and instead raise fears. The whole reason for having a face-to-face interview is so that the claimant can explain clearly why they might need the benefit.