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Volume 660: debated on Monday 13 May 2019

The Government remain committed to tackling poverty so that we can make a lasting difference to long-term outcomes. This Government have lifted 400,000 people out of absolute poverty since 2010, and income inequality has fallen.

Very few people in Glasgow North moving on to universal credit feel as if they are moving out of hardship and poverty. As my hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) said, 60% of claimants across the country automatically apply for the advance payment, which means that they automatically start receiving less universal credit as the repayments kick in, regardless of their means. How on earth is that helping to tackle hardship or people’s ability to manage their money? Will the Department urgently review the advance payment system?

The hon. Gentleman highlights the importance of ensuring that claimants do not go without any money, which is why we welcomed the improvements to make advance payments more accessible. Let us remember that, under the complicated six legacy benefits, more than £2.4 billion of benefits were left unclaimed every year, worth an average of £280 per month; that meant that 700,000 of some of the most vulnerable people were missing out on their entitlement.

A constituent of mine who is a single mother with three children was persuaded to apply for a loan to replace her cooker. The loan company took her details and made an application for universal credit on her behalf, unbeknown to her, and claimed a large advance payment that they told her was the loan. When she reported this to the police and to the DWP and asked them to look into her case, they insisted that it was a valid claim for universal credit. She has had her advance payment, and she is left—pregnant, with three young children—with no access to any money until the end of the month. Please will the Minister or the Secretary of State look into this and make sure that vulnerable people cannot be treated in this way?

The circumstances just described sound horrendous. We will absolutely look into that as a matter of urgency and report back as quickly as possible.