Latest from Parliament on Universal Credit

Universal Credit 7 Sep 2015

8. Kate Hollern (Blackburn) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of progress on rolling out universal credit. [901154]

18. Matt Warman (Boston and Skegness) (Con): What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the roll-out of universal credit. [901164]

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr Iain Duncan Smith): Universal credit is now available in more than half of jobcentres across Great Britain and will be available in all jobcentres early next year. The national roll-out is on track and our “test and learn” approach is now working very well. Nearly 175,000 people have made a claim for universal credit so far. The number is growing exponentially as we roll out the scheme across the country. Our evidence shows that the universal credit claimants find work quicker, stay in work longer and earn more than the jobseeker’s allowance claimants.

Kate Hollern: I am surprised by that response. The targets that the Minister set last October have been dramatically missed. Will he now accept that universal credit is a failed and expensive policy?

Mr Duncan Smith: It would be helpful if the hon. Lady listened to the answer that she was given rather than go with a Labour Whip’s handout. The Front-Bench team obviously worked very hard to ensure that she got her question in. Universal credit is going to be a remarkable success; it is rolling out to more than half of jobcentres and people will benefit enormously.

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Matt Warman: In contrast to the views expressed by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Kate Hollern), in my constituency of Boston and Skegness I am told that the roll-out of universal credit is progressing well in its limited form, thanks in part to all the agencies involved. Will the Secretary of State assure me that we will continue to provide the important computer support needed for this online programme so that we can ensure that it goes as far and as fast as possible?

Mr Duncan Smith: I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. In all the areas in which we have rolled out universal credit—in more than half of jobcentres—it is dramatically improving people’s lives. Unlike when the previous Government rolled out tax credit and hundreds of thousands of people lost their money, this scheme is ensuring that people who deserve the money and are ready for it are paid it.

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): The number of people receiving universal credit remains derisorily small. Four years ago, the Secretary of State told us that the transition to universal credit would be complete by 2017. We told him he would not manage it. We were right; he was wrong. He still has not given us a revised date for the completion of universal credit roll-out. Has he given up entirely on ever having one?

Mr Duncan Smith: I am on the verge of giving up speaking to the right hon. Gentleman, because he misuses all the facts. As I have told him again and again and again, he is more than welcome to visit the sites where it has been rolled out. He has had an open invitation to come to see the digital site and I recommend that he does so. Universal credit is already working; no one has lost any money; it will be online; and it will go out fully and start next year. This is a successful programme and if the right hon. Gentleman wants to compare notes about tax credit roll-outs, I would be more than happy to do that.

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con): I recently visited my local jobcentre in Maidstone. I found that the job coaches there were pretty much unanimous in their support of universal credit—

Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab): Did you get one?

Helen Whately: Will my right hon. Friend advise on what formal assessment there has been of the success and impact of universal credit so far?

Mr Duncan Smith: As I have already said, universal credit is now available in more than half of the jobcentres. The full development starts rolling out next year. People will benefit enormously not just from the technicalities but from the fact that an adviser will now stay with a claimant all the way through the claim. I know that my hon. Friend was not looking for a job, but perhaps the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) will need to be looking for one in a few years’ time.