Skip to main content

Universal Credit

Volume 635: debated on Monday 5 February 2018

Universal credit transforms the welfare state and the rollout is proceeding to plan, with universal credit now available in one third of all jobcentres in Great Britain.

Easterhouse Housing and Regeneration Alliance is a coalition of eight independent housing associations that has been based in my constituency and operating for pretty much my entire lifetime. It has profound concerns about the rollout of universal credit in Glasgow. Given that the Government have given a lot of commitment to go and meet various people on their Benches today, will the Minister come to my constituency to meet it and listen to its concerns?

When we have rolled out universal credit, we have done it in a manner that makes sense and works. Right now, 9% of those who will eventually end up on universal credit are on universal credit, and it will reach 11% by June this year. I am, of course, undertaking a whole range of visits to jobcentres across the country. I will make sure that I make a visit to Scotland, and we can have a discussion about whether there is an opportunity to visit the hon. Gentleman as well.

A terminally ill man has won the right to raise a landmark challenge to the Government after the introduction of universal credit left him significantly worse off. Having already acted unlawfully to 1.6 million PIP claimants at a cost to taxpayers of £3.7 billion, does the Minister guarantee that his Government will not be found guilty of unfairly treating the terminally ill?

I want to be absolutely clear: the changes that we are making in universal credit and in the benefit system are there to focus on protecting the most vulnerable. That is the underlying policy of universal credit and we will continue to do that.

Has the Minister had any discussions with colleagues in the Department for Education about their proposals for the eligibility of universal credit claimants to free school meals? If the current proposal were to go ahead, it would introduce a huge new benefit trap into the system, far worse than anything in the old system. Universal credit was supposed to remove such traps, not create new ones.

Currently, 1.1 million young people—students—receive free school meals. If the policy that has been put forward as part of the consultation goes ahead—where there is an earnings threshold of £7,400—an additional 50,000 young people will benefit from free school meals.