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Universal Credit: Transitional Support

Volume 670: debated on Monday 27 January 2020

16. What steps she is taking to provide support for people who require additional help transitioning to universal credit. (900409)

20. What steps she is taking to provide support for people who require additional help transitioning to universal credit. (900415)

The Department is working with a range of organisations to support claimants transitioning to universal credit, building on the success of the Help to Claim scheme, which is delivered by Citizens Advice and has helped more than 180,000 people. From April 2020, a new £10 million transitional fund will provide extra help to the most vulnerable, improving access to welfare and labour market opportunities.

If someone is on a four-weekly payment cycle, they will be paid twice in one month every year. That cocks up their universal credit claim as well as their cash flow. Until we fix the system, would a simple solution not be to give an interest-free loan to tide them over that period?

I am getting a strong steer that Members would like me to take a good look at this policy area, and I thank my hon. Friend for his suggestion. As he knows, we are always looking at ways to improve the UC system. The amount of UC paid to claimants reflects as closely as possible the actual circumstances of a household during each monthly assessment period, and those periods align to the way that the majority of employees are paid. I am of course willing to look into the issue, though, and am happy to meet my hon. Friend in due course.

The Minister will know that Warrington was one of the first pilot towns to move to universal credit, back in 2013. Today, the town has record levels of employment. However, problems have been reported to my office: new claimants often have to wait beyond a reasonable timeframe to access help. Will the Minister come to Warrington to work with me to identify changes that will speed up the process for claimants, so that we can help even more people back into work?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question and welcome him to his place. He is a strong local champion, hence his election. I would of course be very happy to visit Warrington.

Universal credit and transitioning to universal credit are causing real hardship in Nottingham, with more than 26,000 people using food banks for emergency supplies in the past year alone. Will the Minister accompany me to my constituency to see for himself the destitution and desperation caused by his Department’s policies?

I visit constituencies all around the country. Only last week I was in Scotland visiting numerous jobcentres.

SNP Members were certainly notified that I was coming.

If I get the opportunity, I would very much like to visit the hon. Lady’s constituency. It is important to say that, once fully rolled out, universal credit will give claimants an additional £2.1 billion a year. It is a more generous system and I would be happy to work with her and her jobcentre to see how it is working with her constituents.

In 2013, I set up a food bank with various community leaders, not only because of the poverty and deprivation that existed, but because, at that time, there was the impending prospect of universal credit. Do the Government see food banks as a long-lasting feature for those of our population who happen to be dependent on universal credit?

I do not want anyone to feel that they have no choice but to visit a food bank. What is really important for me is understanding the drivers of food bank use. I work very closely with the Trussell Trust and independent food bank providers. Representatives of the Trussell Trust, whom I regularly meet, tell me some of the issues involved, and we are looking at addressing them. Also important for me is understanding food insecurity, as it is the key to tackling the root causes of the problem. We have also put a question on the family resource survey, which launched in April.