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Universal Credit: Financial Hardship

Volume 644: debated on Monday 2 July 2018

6. What assessment she has made of trends in the level of financial hardship experienced by universal credit claimants. (906161)

The best way to help people financially is to help them into work, and universal credit will get 200,000 more people into work. Our recent survey evidence shows that people on UC and in work had an average increase in reported earnings of £600 a year. There was also an 8% fall in the number of people on incomes of £10,000 a year or less.

The DWP’s own survey also found that after nine months on universal credit, 40% of claimants were falling behind with their bills or experiencing real financial hardship. This is a problem not of the initial waiting period but of ongoing insufficient income. The Secretary of State has tested and learned about hardship levels. How will she fix them?

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, the close and constructive relationship between work coaches and their clients should enable them as a team to get through any hardship that arises. The hon. Lady is attempting to build a career on bashing universal credit, but she never does so in context. We have chosen to fight poverty in a different way. We have chosen to fight it with work rather than with welfare. She never points out that, under the last Labour Government, the number of households where no one worked almost doubled.

Earlier on, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton), mentioned scaremongering by the Opposition. I can confirm that that scaremongering causes grave anxiety among my constituents. Will the Minister confirm that, for example, an advance payment does not involve rates of interest and that it is reimbursed by deductions made over a period of months?

My hon. Friend is exactly right. I was pleased to be able to sit with him in a meeting with some of his third sector organisations, including his local food bank, his citizens advice bureau and his local refuge, to try to scotch some of the mythology that has been created around universal credit. Wherever universal credit has been in place for some time, it receives universal praise from work coaches on the frontline and very high satisfaction levels from the people who are using it.