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Universal Credit

Volume 555: debated on Monday 10 December 2012

Today we are publishing a high-level framework for evaluating universal credit. A full programme of evaluation is being developed. This will include studies of implementation, covering themes such as claimant, staff and stakeholder experience. This, along with other analysis, will form part of a continuous programme of evaluation on the roll-out of universal credit.

Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that he will resist the last Government’s temptation always to launch things with a big-bang announcement, often followed by failure? In this case, will he carefully learn the lessons of the pilots he is launching in April?

The process we are engaged in—by the way, I have fully briefed the Opposition Front-Bench team, so there are no secrets here—involves a pathfinder starting in April, and by the beginning of October we will start the national roll-out. The whole idea is to roll it out progressively throughout the UK, making sure that we learn the lessons as we roll it out. Whatever changes need to be made can be made at that point. It seems to me that that is the reasonable and right way to do these things, but I remind my hon. Friend that we are not only below budget, but on time—and it will be completed on time.

No doubt the Secretary of State will confirm that, following the introduction of universal credit, when people’s incomes change they will have to go to the local council to sort out their council tax benefit changes, and to the DWP to sort out their housing benefit changes. Two visits, or two contacts, will be required as a result of one change of income. What progress is the Department making in discussing with councils the need to provide a joined-up service so that, in future, people will need make only one contact when their incomes change?

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that issue. We are currently engaging in discussions with local authorities with the aim of ensuring that people receive a proper and comprehensive service, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is exactly what they will receive as and when the time comes to roll out universal credit. The point of universal credit is that all the other benefits, including housing benefit, will be combined in a single payment, which will simplify matters enormously for claimants and recipients; and councils will, through council tax benefit, have the opportunity to provide the best possible service for their tenants.