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Universal Credit: Adequacy

Volume 700: debated on Monday 13 September 2021

17. What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the level of universal credit received by claimants. (903387)

23. What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the level of universal credit received by claimants. (903394)

The Secretary of State is legally required to conduct an annual review of benefits and pension rates to determine whether they have retained their value in relation to the general level of prices and earnings. The uprating process for working-age benefits has traditionally relied on the September consumer prices index figure and, in April 2021, universal credit was increased by CPI of 0.5%.

If the UK Government plough ahead with their planned cut to universal credit, it will result in one in three families with children in Scotland losing over £1,000 overnight and plunge 20,000 children into poverty. Does the Minister understand why so many people in Scotland think that it is the uplift that should stay and the Government snatching away that financial lifeline that should go instead?

There is no objective way of deciding what an adequate level of benefit should be, as everyone has different requirements. Income-related benefit rates are not made up of separate amounts of specific items of expenditure, such as food or fuel charges. The Government have always been clear that this uplift was a temporary measure, and I gently remind the hon. Gentleman that we spend over £110 billion on benefits for working-age people.

I wonder whether the Ministers can tell us whether any of them actually listened to the evidence of the Work and Pensions Committee last week about hard-pressed families and the effect that universal credit was having on them. If they did, what would they say to their faces about taking £1,040 away from them?

What I would say is that I am proud that this Government stepped forward at the beginning of the pandemic to put in place the largest cash increase in our welfare safety net to support people through an unprecedented period of economic shock and financial disruption, but as our economy opens up, we have record numbers of vacancies in our labour market—we know that work is the best route out of poverty—and it is absolutely right that we tack our approach to support and empower people into work and to progress in work.