Universal credit is an important reform, but so is getting it right

I was pleased to have had the opportunity today to raise concerns in Parliament about the payment system for universal credit. In Thirsk and Malton some of my constituents get paid on four-weekly cycles. This, of course, means that they can get paid twice in the same month and therefore can appear to be earning more than they actually do. I was seeking reassurances from Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, that steps are being taken to ensure that people receive the right level of support at the right time. In response Mrs Rudd said that “We do need to ensure that universal credit delivers on what it intends to do, which is to give real time financial support based on an actual month’s assessment. We have recently updated the guidance for universal credit so that work coaches can adjust to ensure that where the situation he describes occurs, appropriate adjustments are made”.

This reassurance comes on the back of the Secretary of State’s announcement that the next stage of the rollout has been postponed along with a parliamentary vote on the issue. We were due to vote on whether to move three million benefit claimants onto universal credit in the next few weeks. But this vote has been pushed back and Parliament will instead be asked to vote on transferring just 10,000 people to the new benefits system. This will give the Secretary of State an opportunity to pilot the scheme first. I am delighted that Mrs Rudd has listened to concerns and I think it is an example of good governance.

The Universal Credit system is a very important reform and is the biggest and most fundamental reform since its creation. It is a modern benefit based on the sound principles that work should always pay and those who need support receive it. It is also fair to taxpayers. That is why it is equally important that we get it right.

Universal Credit will help 200,000 more people into work when fully rolled out, and empower people to work an extra 113 million hours a year. In last year’s budget, the Chancellor announced a £4.5 billion package for UC, which will make a real difference to the lives of claimants across the country. An extra £1.7 billion a year will be put into work allowances, increasing the amount that hardworking families can earn by £1,000 before their award is tapered away, providing extra support for 2.4 million working families.

I have always made it clear that my door is open to constituents with particular issues and I will do everything I can to help them.