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Welfare Reform

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 2 May 2018

1. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of welfare reforms since 2015 on people living in Wales. (905007)

Welfare reforms in Wales are working. Since 2015, 54,000 more people have been employed; 25,000 fewer people are unemployed; and 25,000 fewer people are economically inactive. This demonstrates that welfare reforms are transforming lives across the country. As research shows, universal credit claimants spend more time looking and applying for work than those on previous benefits.

In January, the Wales Audit Office produced a report saying that the Government’s welfare reform policies were contributing to homelessness in Wales. What does the Minister think is causing homelessness in Wales?

We have been taking time to roll out universal credit and have responded to some of the needs and suggestions put forward, which is why people now get two weeks’ extra housing benefit, but I would add that not every council has used its discretionary payments for housing.

If universal credit is such a good thing, why is the Minister’s Government denying some Welsh-speaking people the right to apply for it?

I have already written to my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions about this because I recognise the importance of claimants being able to access the service in the Welsh language. That is exactly why the roll-out has been delayed in areas with a high proportion of people who speak Welsh. In addition, Welsh speakers can access some services via a freephone line.

Some 13% of adults in Wales received treatment for their mental health in 2015, and one in four of the wider Welsh population are thought to live with a mental health condition. Many suffering with mental illness are too ill to work. Last year, I was told by the Government in a response to a parliamentary question:

“No psychologists or psychiatrists are currently employed by Centre for Health and Disability Assessments to conduct work capability assessments.”

Will the Minister join me in requesting a meeting with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to discuss reviewing this policy and ensuring that those suffering from mental illness are properly assessed by professionals and not denied the welfare to which they are entitled?

We have been very careful to consult a wide range of experts—people working for disability charities and medical professionals—to make sure we get these assessments right. The hon. Gentleman is right that mental health needs to be looked at very carefully, and I will take up his invitation: I will meet my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.