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Universal Credit Claimants: Support

Volume 703: debated on Monday 8 November 2021

Our plan for jobs provides tailored support for people of all ages, helping them to prepare for, get into and progress in work. The additional 13,500 work coaches whom we have recruited are ensuring that people receive the personalised advice that they need, and have access to the employment programmes or training that are right for them.

Research conducted by the End Child Poverty coalition shows that, in my constituency, 25% of children were living in poverty in 2019-20: that is 4,815 children. Since 2015, poverty has increased by 2.2%: that is 482 more children. I want to see the numbers going down, not up. Does the Minister agree that the best way to make that happen would be to reinstate the £20-a-week uplift in universal credit?

I think we have heard across the Chamber that the way out of poverty and the way to make progress is through a pay packet, which gives people so much more than just pay: it gives them the confidence that enables them to make progress and move forward. The hon. Lady will be interested in the report from the in-work commission, to which we will respond shortly. In Scotland, our new programme, job entry: targeted support—JETS—has moved more than 1,500 people into employment since January this year. I think that she has visited her jobcentre, so she should feel confident that there is help out there to ensure that no one is left behind.

I recently received a letter from a local bakery which is desperate for 30 people to come and work there. In fact we have hundreds of jobs, in hospitality, agriculture, social care and food processing. While it is disappointing that the Scottish Administration are not creating jobs for people in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, does the Minister agree that those people should come to places in North Yorkshire, such as Scarborough, where they will receive not only a warm welcome, but a great job and a great future?

Long-term unemployment is a devolved matter for the Scottish Government to attend to, but I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has raised this important matter. We at the DWP are organising Hospitality Rocks events to bring people into the industry. It is possible to earn significant sums in a couple of years with the necessary training and support, and people should definitely be taking those jobs in Scarborough and beyond.

The fact that universal credit is an in-work benefit is commonly overlooked. There will be a great many more claimants in west London, where Ocado Zoom is treating its workforce appallingly. It has not taken them in-house as it promised, and they now have much worse terms and conditions. I know that the Government are ruling out fire and rehire legislation generally, but will the Minister—I know she is a reasonable person, and everyone loved her the other day when she met our all-party parliamentary group on single parent families—look into this case, which the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain has been actively pursuing? The chief executive of Ocado Zoom will not even talk to me.

The hon. Lady should raise the issue with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, because employee rights are a matter for that Department. However, she has made an important point. We have an employees’ market, with more than 1 million job vacancies, many of them in London. I hope that her constituents will say to that employer, “We are off somewhere else”. Whether that is in hospitality or elsewhere, they will receive a warm welcome, and so they should. They should be well rewarded for the work that they do, which is why the increase in the national living wage is so important.