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Universal Credit

Volume 631: debated on Monday 13 November 2017

10. What steps his Department has taken to ensure that people do not face financial difficulties while waiting for their first universal credit payment. (901844)

Advances are available at the start of a universal credit claim to ensure that those who need it have money to tide them over until their first payment. Our data shows that around half of claimants are receiving advances, and we have recently undertaken an exercise to improve awareness and access to this support.

I thank the Secretary of State for his very reassuring answer. In Banbury, we are fortunate to have very low unemployment rates. Can he tell me what will be the likely impact on jobs of universal credit roll-out in my constituency?

In total, it is estimated that universal credit will help around 250,000 more people into employment. On average, that works out at around 400 extra people in work in each parliamentary constituency, but universal credit will, of course, have larger impacts in areas with a higher proportion of benefit claimants or a higher prevalence of single-parent and out-of-work families.

The Trussell Trust says that food bank use has increased in areas where universal credit has been rolled out. Universal credit has not been rolled out yet in my constituency, but this weekend the Heywood food bank ran out of food. What safeguards will the Secretary of State put in place to ensure that universal credit claimants do not have to rely on the charity of their neighbours, a system that sometimes fails?

We are improving the advances system, and we are improving awareness of it. Importantly, support is available, and that is a message that we can all take to our constituents. Nobody needs to wait six weeks because advances are available within jobcentres, and they are being taken up. The majority of new claimants are taking up those advances.

Last week, I heard from one of my constituents who was having difficulty getting an advance payment and who had to resort to a food bank. When the error was corrected and he got his advance payment, he took the food back to the food bank. First, does that not show that, when mistakes are made, every effort is made to correct them? Secondly, does it not show the basic human decency of those claiming universal credit?

I entirely agree with the point my hon. Friend makes. It is worth pointing out that, in the normal course of events, someone’s advance takes about three days to go through the banking system and for the money to be paid, but that, if need be, people can get support on the same day.