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Universal Credit: Social Security Advisory Committee

Volume 654: debated on Monday 11 February 2019

8. What recent progress her Department has made on implementing the recommendation of the Social Security Advisory Committee on alternatives to claiming universal credit online. (909114)

Universal credit is primarily a digital service, but it can also be accessed via telephone and in a jobcentre, where in-person support is available. We also provide assisted digital support as part of our current universal support offer.

The Secretary of State told Sky News that she will ensure that no deflection script strategy is used by the universal credit helpline in the future. Is she therefore admitting that a deflection script has been in use, and that there has been a culture of rushing people off the phone and diverting them online? If so, will she now apologise for the Department having denied this tactic?

The hon. Lady has already been sent a copy of the universal credit digital channel document, which Department for Work and Pensions staff use as a guide when taking calls from claimants. She will be aware that this document says clearly that staff must use a common-sense and sensitive approach in resolving queries ahead of any digital discussion. Let me be absolutely clear that there is no intention to deflect and there are no targets for getting claimants to use a digital channel.

On 15 January, the First Minister of Wales agreed with Plaid Cymru and Labour MPs that the devolution of certain aspects of welfare benefits should be explored. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how universal credit can be better tailored to the needs of the people of Wales, particularly with regards to claiming online and the needs of Welsh speakers?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have now put in place mechanisms so that Welsh speakers do benefit. I am happy to meet him and any other colleagues to discuss any issues that they may wish to raise.