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Universal Credit: NAO Report

Volume 644: debated on Monday 2 July 2018

5. What assessment she has made of the implications for her Department’s policies of the findings of the NAO report entitled rolling out universal credit, published on 15 June 2018. (906160)

It is unfortunate that the NAO was unable to take into account the significant changes recently implemented in universal credit. Those changes address many of the concerns raised in its report. We continue to listen and learn from feedback, and make the necessary changes to the benefit as we roll it out.

Many of my constituents are among the one in five individuals who are not paid universal credit on time. As the Minister should know, the NAO specifically recommended that UC should not be rolled out further until the system can extend and work with the current level of applications. Will she accept that recommendation?

The NAO made clear quite the opposite: it said that we need to continue with universal credit. It was also concerned that it was rolling out too slowly and said that actually we should increase what we are doing. So what the right hon. Gentleman says is absolutely not what the NAO said.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that more than eight in 10 claimants are satisfied with their experience of universal credit?

My hon. Friend is right—that is exactly the number. Actually, Patrick from Newport has said that it helped him with fares to get to a job and with the cost of clothing. He said:

“Thanks for all your help. It was really easy dealing with everyone who helped me back into work quickly and helping me buy what I need and travel back and forth.”

That was an example from Wales.

The National Audit Office report recommended that the Government should

“ensure the programme does not expand before business-as-usual operations can cope with higher claimant volumes”,

yet in her oral statement on 21 June, the Secretary of State said that the NAO report stated that the Government should

“continue with the roll-out and do it faster.”—[Official Report, 21 June 2018; Vol. 643, c. 495.]

Will the Secretary of State tell us where in the report it says that the roll-out should be speeded up?

Yes, in the report it says just that. It says that it needs to continue to go forward and it needs to continue at a faster rate.

The NAO report acknowledged the close links between local authorities and universal credit. As one of the first full-service sites, Rugby and its borough council received an £85,000 payment to assist with the cost of digitisation. Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming that valuable support for local authorities in full-service areas?

I will indeed join my hon. Friend in praising that support. It is really important that local authorities are involved in what is happening and that we provide the right support on the ground for individuals to get their benefit.