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Written Statements

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 19 September 2023

Written Statements

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Business and Trade

Shipbuilding Credit Guarantee Scheme Update

I am making a statement to correct the record in relation to the supplementary estimate for UK Export Finance.

The final paragraph of the statement I made on 13 September 2023 should have read as follows:

“Parliamentary approval for additional resource of £51,000 for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for UK Export Finance. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £51,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the contingencies fund.”

[HCWS1055]

Treasury

Public Service Pension Schemes: Quadrennial Valuations

There are currently more than 6 million active members of the public service pensions schemes, which cover the NHS, teachers, the armed forces, the police, firefighters, local government workers, the judiciary and civil servants. Valuations of the public service pension schemes are undertaken every four years. The valuations are important as they ensure that the full costs of each scheme are understood and fully recognised by Government, and that there is a fair balance of risk between members and taxpayers with regard to the cost of providing the schemes.

This valuation is the first time that a reformed cost control mechanism will be used. Following a review by the Government Actuary and a public consultation, the cost control mechanism has been reformed to address concerns around its not meeting its original objectives. The objectives are to protect the Exchequer, and by extension taxpayers, from unforeseen costs; to maintain the value of public service pension schemes to members; and to provide stability and certainty on member benefit and contribution levels. The reforms mean that the mechanism now only assesses costs associated with the post-2015 reformed schemes, increases the margin by which costs need to vary from the target in order for benefit, or member contribution, changes to be required from 2% to 3% of pensionable pay, and includes an “economic check” such that changes will only happen if the costs would still be outside the same margin had the impact of changes in long-term economic assumptions been included. The Public Service Pensions Act 2013, when taken together with regulations made under it and the Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Act 2022, provides for the introduction of these reforms.

On 31 August 2023, HM Treasury published a document that sets out how the valuations are to be conducted for this valuation cycle[1]. The document sets a range of assumptions that Departments and the Scottish and Welsh Governments must use in finalising their valuations of public service pension schemes. The document allows public service employers, Departments and scheme administrators to complete their valuations and prepare for the implementation of new employer contribution rates and take any necessary steps with respect to cost control mechanism results. The publication of this document follows a statutory consultation with the Government Actuary, which concluded in August 2023. Copies of this document, the 2023 Directions, have been placed in the Houses of Parliament Libraries.

A key factor which influences the valuation results of all unfunded schemes is a reduction in the SCAPE—superannuation contributions adjusted for past experience —discount rate which is used to express schemes’ future pension payments as a present-day cost, based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast of long-term GDP growth. The updated SCAPE discount rate was announced in March 2023 and is expected to cause increases to employer contribution rates. This is because pension payments paid in the future will be discounted at a lower rate and therefore have a higher value in today’s terms. HM Treasury has committed to provide funding, for all centrally funded employers, for increases in employer contribution rates resulting from the 2020 valuations as a consequence of changes to the SCAPE discount rate.

The outcomes of the valuations are expected to be confirmed later this year via the publication of each scheme’s valuation report. Changes to employer contribution rates will be implemented with effect from 1 April 2024, and any changes to benefits required to bring a scheme back to target cost would apply retrospectively from 1 April 2023. An additional process operates in the local government pension scheme (LGPS) (England and Wales) run by the LGPS England and Wales Scheme Advisory Board.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-service-pensions-2020-valuations

[HCWS1051]

War Widow(er)s Recognition Payment: Tax Treatment

The Government announced in May that payments of £87,500 will be made to those who forfeited their entitlement to a pension for a service attributable death prior to 2015 and have not had this pension restored through divorce or subsequent bereavement. This payment is not intended to put a value on the widow(er)’s loss, but instead be an amount that clearly recognises that remarriage or cohabiting with a new partner does not erase the bereavement, as the Government are deeply conscious of the sacrifice these bereaved people have made.

The Government are today announcing that these payments will be exempt from income tax and national insurance contributions. This will ease the administrative burden on recipients who are a specially designated group who benefit from a key principle of the armed forces covenant, which recognises that special consideration should be made by the nation to those, such as the bereaved, who have given most in the service of our country.

We reiterate our sincere condolences and gratitude to the widows and widowers who lost beloved partners in service.

[HCWS1050]

Defence

New Accommodation Offer

Today I am pleased to announce the Ministry of Defence’s new accommodation offer, which from 11 March 2024 will deliver greater access to subsidised accommodation for our service personnel.

As the Defence Command Paper Refresh made clear, our people are our greatest strength, and the provision of service accommodation is essential to their operational effectiveness. To support this, our new accommodation offer recognises the different ways our people and their families live, modernises the way we use our estate, and provides an enhanced offer based on each service person’s needs. We recognised the importance of improving fairness and inclusivity for all our people in the 2022 Defence accommodation strategy, and through the new accommodation offer we will deliver this for our people. Defence will also invest a further £400 million over the next two years to ensure that we provide the modern accommodation that our service personnel, their families and partners deserve.

The new accommodation offer widens entitlement to family accommodation subsidised by the MOD. This will be delivered through service family accommodation, or a subsidy provided to service personnel to rent from the private rental sector.

From March, service personnel who want to live with their partner but are not married or in a civil partnership, and parents with children who stay with them for 80 nights or more per year, will be entitled to subsidised family accommodation for the first time.

Widening entitlement to subsidised accommodation is the right thing to do. Inevitably, this will lead to increased demand across the Defence estate for accommodation. To ensure availability of subsidised accommodation for those entitled to it, we will make greater use of the private rental sector. Service personnel allocated to live in the private rental sector will receive a monthly rental subsidy to support them in renting a property that is suitable for their needs, within a daily commute of their assigned location.

Defence will no longer take rank into account when allocating accommodation, as using our estate this way increases cost and is inequitable. Through the new accommodation offer, accommodation entitlements will be simplified. Service personnel of all ranks will receive an entitlement to accommodation based on their need, which for most will be linked to family size. We will, however, give service personnel more flexibility to choose the size, type and location of their accommodation where availability allows.

Many of those who currently receive an entitlement based on rank will continue to be able to occupy a property with the same number of bedrooms under the new accommodation offer. However, where personnel do experience a reduction in their entitlement, they will be entitled to transitional protection until three years after the launch of the new offer.

As well as widening entitlement to family accommodation, the new accommodation offer will address the current disparity between how single living accommodation is charged to service personnel when it is not their main home. All personnel who cannot commute daily from their home will be supported irrespective of their marital status.

Home ownership will be made more achievable by giving first-time buyers the opportunity to have up to £1,500 of their legal expenses refunded alongside the support of Forces Help to Buy.

As of 11 March 2024, service personnel who are newly entitled will have the opportunity to apply for accommodation under the new accommodation offer.

For those who already have entitlement, they will have the opportunity to move to the new accommodation offer on their next assignment. After three years, any service personnel who have not yet transitioned to the new offer will do so in a programmed manner.

The new accommodation offer demonstrates our commitment to improving the offer for our service personnel, delivering the vision set out in the Defence accommodation strategy, and working towards improving our accommodation, noting the recommendations of the Haythornthwaite review. We will go as far as we can to improve the offer under existing policy by widening entitlement to service family accommodation for service personnel in long-term relationships at eight sites covering approximately 10,000 people. This will apply to service personnel assigned to these sites from 31 October 2023.

Further guidance is being published today, with a final joint service publication expected later this year.

As well as ensuring that our service people have the choice in homes they deserve, they must remain affordable. We are committed to protecting our service personnel from cost of living challenges. We have done this by freezing daily food charges, ensuring the council tax rebate reaches those in military accommodation, increasing the availability of free wrap-around childcare and, this year, delivering a freeze in service family accommodation rents funded principally through the penalties applied to maintenance contractors for their poor performance over the winter months.

Our strategic advantage is derived foremost from our first-class people—our real battle-winning capability. Today’s announcement builds on accommodation rent freezes, and an additional £400 million injection over the next two years to ensure that we provide the modern accommodation that our service families deserve.

[HCWS1053]

Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan: Revised Terms of Reference

Further to the statement by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace) dated 5 July 2023, I can confirm that the terms of reference of the independent inquiry relating to Afghanistan have been amended by agreement with the chair, the right hon. Lord Justice Haddon-Cave.

I have placed a copy of the revised terms of reference in the Library of the House.

The amendments reflect the written ministerial statement, which avowed the involvement of special forces in alleged unlawful activity in Afghanistan in the period mid-2010 to mid-2013.

In my new capacity as Secretary of State for Defence, I would like to reiterate my strong support for this inquiry commissioned my right hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North.

Attachments can be viewed online at:

http://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2023-09-19/HCWS1043

[HCWS1043]

Education

RAAC in Education Settings

This update follows from my oral statement to the House on 4 September.

On 6 September we published the list of 147 education settings known to be affected by RAAC. Thanks to the hard work of school and college leaders, all of these settings are offering face-to-face education, with 126 settings offering full time face-to-face education for all pupils.

An updated list of schools and colleges with confirmed cases of RAAC has been published today. As of 14 September, a further 27 settings have confirmed RAAC in some of their buildings. Of the 174 confirmed cases, 148 settings are providing full time face-to-face education for all pupils.

Last year, we issued a questionnaire to responsible bodies for all 22,000 schools and colleges in England to ask them to identify whether they suspected they had RAAC. Since 4 September we have been working with responsible bodies to confirm the remaining responses to this questionnaire. Responsible bodies have, as of today, submitted responses to the questionnaire for 98.6% of schools with blocks built in the target era. We are now working through all of these responses, and I continue to encourage all responsible bodies with outstanding responses to send these to the Department as soon as possible.

In my 4 September statement I also committed to complete outstanding surveys among schools within a matter of weeks. Due in part to the additional surveying capacity we have procured, I can confirm that every school that was awaiting a survey on 4 September has now been visited or will be visited this week.

Every school or college with confirmed RAAC is assigned dedicated support from our team of 80 caseworkers who work with them to assess what support is needed and implement mitigation plans that are right for them. Mitigation plans could include other spaces on the school site, or in nearby schools or elsewhere in the local area, until structural works are carried out or temporary buildings are installed. A bespoke plan is put in place to ensure that each school and college receives the support that suits their circumstances.

Project delivery teams are on site to support schools and colleges, whether that is finding short-term accommodation options or designing and putting in place structural solutions for affected spaces.

The Government will fund the emergency mitigation work needed to make buildings safe, including installing alternative classroom space where necessary. Where schools and colleges need additional help with revenue costs, like transport to locations or temporarily renting a local hall, this should be discussed with their caseworker and we expect all reasonable requests will be approved.

The Government will fund longer-term refurbishment or rebuilding projects to rectify the RAAC issue. Schools and colleges will either be offered capital grants to fund refurbishment work to permanently remove RAAC, or rebuilding projects where these are needed, including through the school rebuilding programme. We will set out further details in due course. We will work closely with responsible bodies to understand and assess what the right solution is for each case.

I want to reassure pupils, parents and staff that this Government will do whatever it takes to support our schools and colleges in responding to RAAC and minimise disruption to education.

[HCWS1045]

Energy Security and Net Zero

Energy Infrastructure Planning Projects

My noble friend the Under-Secretary of State, Lord Callanan, has today made the following statement:

This statement concerns an application for development consent made under the Planning Act 2008 by Sunnica Energy Farm for the construction and operation of a solar photovoltaic energy generation farm, situated across west Suffolk and east Cambridgeshire.

Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make a decision on an application within three months of the receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) of the Act to set a new deadline. Where a new deadline is set, the Secretary of State must make a statement to Parliament to announce it. The current statutory deadline for the decision on the Sunnica Energy Farm application is 28 September 2023.

I have decided to set a new deadline of no later than 7 December 2023 for deciding this application.

The decision to set the new deadline for this application is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.

[HCWS1044]

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Hong Kong Six-monthly Report

The latest six-monthly report on the implementation of the Sino-British joint declaration on Hong Kong was published today, and is attached. It covers the period from 1 July to 31 December 2022. The report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. A copy is also available on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/six-monthly-reports-on-hong-kong

I commend the report to the House.

The attachment can be viewed online at:

https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2023-09-19/hcws1049

[HCWS1049]

UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly: Membership

The hon. Member for Wallasey (Dame Angela Eagle) has been appointed as a full representative and vice-chair of the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly in place of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn).

The hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova) has been appointed as a full representative of the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly in place of the hon. Member for Bristol North West (Darren Jones).

[HCWS1047]

NATO Parliamentary Assembly

The right hon. Lord Dodds of Duncairn has replaced the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson) as a member of the United Kingdom delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

[HCWS1048]

Health and Social Care

Minimum Service Levels: Hospital Settings

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations to establish minimum service levels for relevant services in the event of strike action. They must consult with such persons as they consider appropriate before making regulations. Minimum service levels aim to limit the impacts of strike action on the lives and livelihoods of the public and to strike a balance between the right of unions and their members to strike and the need for the wider public to be able to access key services during strikes.

A key priority for this Government is to ensure that our health services can continue to deliver vital services to treat and support patients at their time of need, particularly during challenging times. On Tuesday the Department of Health and Social Care launched a consultation seeking views to inform decisions on the introduction of regulations on minimum service levels in England, Scotland and Wales, to protect patient safety in key hospital-based services during strike action.

Our proposal is that most essential and time-critical hospital services should be covered by minimum service levels regulations. This consultation will help to inform decisions on whether hospital services should be covered and, if so, which services, and the appropriate minimum service levels required. The consultation will also seek views on whether any health services outside ambulance services and hospital services should be included in minimum service levels.

The consultation will run for eight weeks and will close on 14 November 2023.

Copies of the consultation will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS1046]

Home Department

Inquiry into Brook House Immigration Removal Centre: Publication of Report

Today the independent inquiry into the mistreatment of individuals who were detained at Brook House immigration removal centre (IRC) between 1 April 2017 and 31 August 2017, as shown in the BBC Panorama programme “Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets”, has published its report.

The report can be found on the Brook House inquiry website from noon today.

The report sets out failings in both oversight and governance to protect the welfare of detained individuals within Brook House IRC during this period.

The Government take the welfare and safety of those we detain very seriously and has made significant improvements to immigration detention since the dates covered by the inquiry.

I would like to thank Kate Eves and the inquiry team for their work to establish the facts of what happened at Brook House IRC, to identify learning and to make recommendations that will help to prevent a recurrence of such events.

We will carefully consider the findings of this inquiry in its detailed report, including the recommendations in relation to the management of the immigration detention estate and the welfare of detained individuals.

I have today laid the inquiry’s report before the House, and it will also be published on www.gov.uk.

[HCWS1052]

Science, Innovation and Technology

UK Artificial Intelligence Policy

I am pleased to provide the House with an update on developments in the UK’s Government’s artificial intelligence policy in recent months.

AI promises to revolutionise our economy, society and everyday lives, bringing with it enormous opportunities but also significant new risks. Led by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, the UK has established itself as a world leader in driving responsible, safe AI innovation and has committed to host the first major international summit of its kind on the safe use of AI, to be held at Bletchley Park on 1 and 2 November 2023.

AI Safety Summit

The AI safety summit will bring together key countries, as well as leading technology organisations, academia and civil society to inform rapid national and international action at the frontier of AI development. The summit will focus on risks created or significantly exacerbated by the most powerful AI systems. For example, the proliferation of access to information that could undermine biosecurity. In turn, the summit will also consider how safe frontier AI can be used for public good and to improve people’s lives—from lifesaving medical technology to safer transport. It will build on important initiatives already being taken forward in other international fora, including at the UN, OECD, G7 and G20, by agreeing practical next steps to address risks from frontier AI.

On 4 September, the Government launched the start of formal pre-summit engagement with countries and a number of frontier AI organisations. As part of an iterative and consultative process, the Government published the five objectives that will be progressed. These build upon initial stakeholder consultation and evidence gathering, and will frame the discussion up to and at the summit:

a shared understanding of the risks posed by frontier AI and the need for action;

a forward process for international collaboration on frontier AI safety, including how best to support national and international frameworks;

appropriate measures that individual organisations should take to increase frontier AI safety;

areas for potential collaboration on AI safety research, including evaluating model capabilities and the development of new standards to support governance; and

showcase how ensuring the safe development of AI will enable AI to be used for good globally.

I look forward to keeping Parliament updated as plans for the summit progress.

Frontier AI Taskforce

Frontier AI models hold enormous potential to power economic growth, drive scientific progress and wider public benefits, while also posing potential safety risks if not developed responsibly. Earlier this year, the Government announced £100 million to set up an expert taskforce to help the UK adopt the next generation of safe AI—the first of its kind.

On 7 September, we renamed the taskforce—formerly the Foundation Model Taskforce—the Frontier AI Taskforce, explicitly acknowledging its role in evaluating risk at the frontier of AI, and systems which could pose significant risks to public safety and global security.

Since the taskforce’s chair, Ian Hogarth, was appointed 12 weeks ago, the taskforce has made rapid progress, recruiting its external advisory board, research teams and developing partnerships with leading frontier AI organisations, to help develop innovative approaches to addressing the risks of AI and harnessing its benefits. I am pleased to be welcoming seven leading advisers to guide and shape the taskforce’s work through its external advisory board. This includes: the Turing prize laureate Yoshua Bengio; the GCHQ Director, Anne Keast-Butler; the Deputy National Security Adviser, Matt Collins; the Chief Scientific Adviser for National Security, Alex Van Someren; the former Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard; the Alignment Research Centre researcher Paul Christiano; and the Prime Minister’s representative for the AI safety summit, Matt Clifford, who will join as vice-chair to unite the taskforce’s work with preparations for the summit—all of whom will turbo charge the taskforce’s work by offering expert insight.

We are also drawing on experts to build a world-leading research team. Oxford researcher Yarin Gal has been confirmed as the first taskforce research director. Cambridge researcher David Kreuger will also be working with the taskforce as it scopes its research programme in the run-up the summit. The research team will sit alongside a dedicated team of civil servants—overseen by a senior responsible officer in my Department, reporting into the DSIT permanent secretary as accounting officer. Together, these teams will work to develop sophisticated safety research capabilities for the UK, strengthen UK AI capability and deliver public sector use cases in frontier AI models.

Industry collaboration, including internationally, forms the backbone of UK’s approach to shared AI safety and the work of the taskforce will be no different. The taskforce is harnessing established industry expertise through partnerships with leading AI companies and non-profits, a number of which were outlined in our recent announcement. These partnerships will unlock advice on the national security implications of frontier AI, as well as broader support in assessing the major societal risks posed by AI systems.

AI Regulation

We are moving quickly to establish the right guardrails for AI to drive responsible, safe innovation. In March, we published the AI regulation White Paper, which set out our first steps towards establishing a regulatory framework for AI. We proposed five principles to govern AI, and committed to establishing mechanisms to monitor AI risk, and co-ordinate, evaluate and adapt the regulatory framework as this technology evolves. We received responses from over 400 individuals and organisations across regulators, industry, academia and civil society. We will be publishing our response to the consultation later this year, to ensure we can take into account the outcomes of the AI safety summit in November.

Since publishing the White Paper, we have taken rapid steps to implement our regulatory approach. I am pleased to confirm that my Department has now established a central AI risk function, which will identify, measure and monitor existing and emerging AI risks using expertise from across Government, industry and academia, including the taskforce. It will allow us to monitor risks holistically as well as to identify any potential gaps in our approach.

We committed to an iterative approach that will evolve as new risks or regulatory gaps emerge. We note the growing concern around the risks to safety posed by our increasing use of AI, particularly the advanced capabilities of frontier AI and foundation models. Our work through the taskforce offers vital insights into the issue and we will be convening nations to examine these particular risks at the international level. We will be providing a wider update on our regulatory approach through our response to the AI regulation White Paper later this year.

Alongside this, we are working closely with regulators. Many have started to proactively and independently take action in line with our proposed AI framework, including the Competition and Markets Authority, which yesterday published a report on its initial review of AI foundation models; the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which has published a road map for software and AI as a medical device; and the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which is piloting an independent sandbox for the use of AI in the nuclear sector, with support from the regulators’ pioneer fund. This demonstrates how our expert UK regulators are taking innovative, world-leading approaches to ensuring AI safety and effectiveness.

We are also examining ways to improve co-ordination and clarity across the regulatory landscape. This includes our work with the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF) to pilot a multi-regulator advisory service for AI and digital innovators, which will be known as the DRCF AI and digital hub. This will provide tailored support to innovators to navigate the AI and wider digital regulatory landscape and capture important insights to support the design and delivery of our AI regulatory framework.

[HCWS1054]

Transport

National Rail Contracts: Avanti and Cross Country

I am updating the House that the Department for Transport has negotiated a National Rail contract for the West Coast Partnership rail operator.

In March 2023, the Department extended the contract with First Trenitalia to operate passenger rail services on the West Coast Partnership. Under this contract, which ends on 15 October 2023, First Trenitalia—as Avanti West Coast—operates express services on the west coast main line.

Today we have awarded a National Rail contract to First Trenitalia to continue operating the West Coast Partnership, providing West Coast train services as Avanti West Coast. This contract, starting on 15 October 2023, will have a core term of three years and a maximum possible term of nine years. After three years, the contract can be terminated at any point with three months’ notice at my discretion.

Previously, I stated that the decision to award a contract to First Trenitalia was contingent on the operator continuing to win back the confidence of passengers, with a particular focus on more reliable weekend services, continued reductions in cancellations, and improvements in passenger information during planned and unplanned disruption. The Department has worked closely with Avanti to restore reliability and punctuality to levels that passengers expect.

Avanti’s performance has improved significantly, with Avanti-caused cancellations consistently below 3% since March 2023, and as low as 1.1% in July 2023, down from 13% in January 2023. Over 90% of trains now arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, improved from 75% in December 2022. Over 100 additional drivers have been trained and brought on since April 2022, and improvements to passenger facilities on trains include better seats, lighting, and charging points.

The NRC will support the introduction of a brand new fleet of electric and bi-mode Hitachi trains later this year to replace its current diesel fleet which forms a key part of Avanti’s goal to run more sustainably and will result in a 61% cut in carbon emissions, as well as offering more space and a quieter journey for passengers. The new trains support the DFT’s strategic aims of reducing environmental impact and improving transport for the user.

The transformation of Avanti’s performance over the past year demonstrates how, through working closely with Government, setting out clear goals and being incentivised to succeed, the private sector can deliver on our railways. My Department will stay in close contact with the operator and local stakeholders to monitor Avanti’s performance as it continues its progress to a sustained recovery and increase services over time.

I am also updating the House that the Department for Transport has negotiated a National Rail contract for the Cross Country rail operator.

In October 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the Department entered into a unique operating cost franchise agreement with Arriva UK Trains Ltd to operate passenger rail services on Cross Country. The core term of this contract ends on 15 October 2023.

Today we have awarded a National Rail contract to Arriva UK Trains Ltd to continue operating the Cross Country rail services. This contract, starting on 15 October 2023, will have a core term of four years and a maximum possible term of eight years. After four years, the contract can be terminated at any point with three months’ notice at my discretion.

The National Rail contract with Arriva UK Trains Ltd includes the addition of capacity to replace the remaining high-speed Trains which are being retired, the refurbishment of both the existing Cross Country train fleets and the introduction from December 2024 of direct daily services between Cardiff and Yorkshire, the north-east and Edinburgh.

[HCWS1041]

Work and Pensions

Additional Jobcentre Support Pilot: Phase 2 Rollout

I wish to update the House on the written statement tabled on 27 February 2023.

Earlier this month, the Department for Work and Pensions started testing a second phase of the additional jobcentre support pilot. The first phase went live on 27 February 2023, following a proof of concept. It tested how enhanced daily work-focused support, across two weeks, can further help eligible universal credit claimants in the intensive work search regime into employment.

Evidence shows that the longer a person is out of work, the harder it is for them to return. A claimant’s likelihood of securing employment declines after 13 weeks, so we are focusing this support on those who remain unemployed or with low earnings after 13 and 26 weeks of claiming universal credit.

The second phase will provide an additional week of daily support after the claimant’s first assessment period. This new earlier intervention will test the impact of a week of skills and employability focused support.

This builds on the first phase of the pilot which, in addition to this extra week of support, continues to test how enhanced daily work-focused support, across a two-week period, can further support eligible universal credit claimants into employment.

As with phase 1, phase 2 of the pilot continues to provide additional one-to-one work search conversations with work coaches and work search support sessions to help claimants. The “Claimant Commitment”, which sets out each claimant’s agreed work-related activities, will be regularly reviewed and activity will be focused on specific steps to support people to move into work.

Claimants will receive prior notice of the requirements they will be expected to fulfil. Eligibility remains unchanged and those with reduced requirements remain out of scope, including those:

Awaiting a work capability assessment;

Required to undertake less than 20 hours a week of work search activity;

Who are gainfully self-employed;

Who have no work-related requirements;

With an easement in place; and

On a full-time provision offer.

The second phase will be tested in the existing 60 pilot sites across central Scotland, Surrey and Sussex, West Yorkshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. Over the coming months, the pilot will expand further into more jobcentres.

DWP remains committed to providing tailored work-focused support to help move claimants into appropriate and sustainable work, where they can then experience the many benefits of employment.

[HCWS1042]