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Universal Credit Roll-out

Volume 646: debated on Thursday 13 September 2018

2. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the effect of the roll-out of universal credit on women. (906867)

8. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the effect of the roll-out of universal credit on women. (906874)

Job coaches working with people claiming universal credit treat all people as individuals, whatever their gender, and can provide personalised support to help people into employment and help them make progress at work. Universal credit also provides a safety net of support for those not in work. We have worked hard with partners to support vulnerable customers such as victims of domestic abuse, and Jobcentre Plus has recently launched a campaign to provide additional support for women, including those who are single parents.

What is the Minister’s message to young mothers such as those supported by Home-Start Glasgow North, whose fantastic tartan tie I am wearing today, if they find that the lack of second earner work allowance in universal credit is a barrier to second earner mothers wanting to enter or re-enter the labour market? Will she raise those concerns with the Department for Work and Pensions and ask that the roll-out of universal credit be halted until those anomalies are sorted out?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his tie. A good friend of mine has volunteered for Home-Start, and I know that it is an extremely valuable organisation. Of course, we want to ensure that any parent, including women who are lone parents, have the opportunity to balance their caring responsibilities with employment. We know that that is really important for women, and that it is important for children to grow up in a home where someone is working. I am always happy to raise any concerns, and perhaps we can have a meeting, but universal credit is working, and it is helping people into work.

The Minister mentioned domestic violence. Will she support the amendments to the domestic abuse Bill being brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), which would introduce split payments of universal credit as a default option for survivors of domestic violence?

Of course, all of us in the House need to work day and night to do everything we can to prevent the appalling atrocity of domestic abuse and violence in our country. It is everyone’s responsibility. In the DWP, we take the support of victims of domestic abuse and violence very seriously, and we are working with Women’s Aid, ManKind and a range of other charities to ensure we provide that support.

The Work and Pensions Committee, on which I sit, recently published a report calling on the Government to see whether universal credit can offer more help to victims of domestic abuse. Will the Minister consider our findings?

I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent contribution to the Select Committee. We are always looking to see what more we can do to support victims of domestic abuse and violence, and we will take very seriously any suggestions from the Committee.

I have to keep up with the propensity of colleagues one moment to bob and then to cease to bob, but Chichester is bobbing again and should be heard—Gillian Keegan.

Work coaches are critical to the success of the roll-out of universal credit, and the team in Chichester are brilliant, but can my hon. Friend outline what training is available specifically to help work coaches to support women and to spot the underlying issues that victims of domestic violence may be suffering from?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question and for visiting her jobcentre. I strongly urge all those who are calling for the halting of the roll-out of universal credit to go to their jobcentre and meet the work coaches, to see the excellent work they are doing and the personalised support they are able to offer all their customers. We have worked closely with Women’s Aid and ManKind to ensure that it is a mandatory part of every work coach’s training to identify potential victims and to help them get the support they need.

The Minister mentioned single parents. As she will be aware, 91% of lone parents are women. Does she agree that the new conditionality requirements for lone parents under universal credit will have a hugely disproportionate impact on women? Will she make representations to the Department for Work and Pensions about that?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I simply do not agree with her. As I said, the relationship that a claimant builds up with their work coach is a personal one, and the support is tailored to that individual. We ensure within universal credit that women or, indeed, men who are bringing up children are able to balance their desire to work with their caring responsibilities. It is not until the youngest child in a family starts school that the job coach begins a conversation about the journey to work. It is not until the youngest child in a family is three that those conversations about getting into work begin to happen.