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Universal Credit

Volume 676: debated on Monday 11 May 2020

Since mid-March, we have processed around 2 million universal credit claims. Despite that surge, the system is standing up to the challenge and demonstrating that resilience is part of its design, with over 90% of new eligible claimants expected to be paid in full and on time. There is no way that the legacy benefit system would have been able to cope with such pressure.

I am grateful to all the jobcentres, and particularly the one in Gloucester, which has done a remarkable job of registering so many of my constituents. Some people discover when they register that they lose child tax credit before any new benefits are payable. What can my hon. Friend the Minister do to help provide our constituents with better tools to assess what will happen and whether they will be better or worse off when they first register for universal credit?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for rightly praising DWP staff for the work they are doing. That issue has been raised by a number of colleagues, and I am looking at data and exploring options. We have been working closely with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to encourage people to check their eligibility before making a claim and ensure that tax credit claimants understand that when they have claimed UC, their tax credits will end, and they cannot return to legacy benefits.

We believe that people need more support during this crisis, but we acknowledge and welcome the changes that the Government have made. Those include increasing the core amount of universal credit by £1,000 a year, but that rise is only for 12 months. If the Government believe that this level of support is necessary during lockdown, why do they believe that people will need less money when lockdown ends and the normal costs of living will apply? Surely it is inconceivable that anyone still unemployed by March next year could see their benefits being cut.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and welcome him to his new position. As he knows, we have announced measures that can be quickly and effectively put in place that will benefit as many disadvantaged families as possible who are currently facing financial disruption. We at the DWP have been under huge increased demand, and we have prioritised the safety and stability of our benefits system overall. All things of this nature will be kept under review, but at the moment, as he rightly points out, the funding has been secured for a 12-month period from Her Majesty’s Treasury.

Can we speed up questions and answers, to help us get through the list? We now go over to Neil Gray in Scotland.

The two areas of universal credit causing the greatest hardship are the five-week wait and the two-child cap—both need scrapping. Taking a UC advanced loan means that payments will be lower than the already impossible to live on levels, so why will the Government not look at the idea of making the advance loan a grant when a person has been confirmed as eligible for UC? That stops the fraud excuse. The only barrier is political will.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. As I have said, we have announced measures that can be quickly and effectively put in place that will benefit as many disadvantaged families as possible who are facing financial disruption. We are under huge increased demand, and I have had to prioritise the safety and stability of the benefits system overall and put that above any structural change. I will always prioritise ensuring that people get their money in full and on time, over and above system change.