Derby Telegraph Column – 18th October 2018

One of the main political topics being discussed in Parliament at the moment is Universal Credit; a major reform that will transform the welfare state across Britain. Universal Credit aims to simplify and streamline the benefits system, and I continue to support and welcome this change. We want a welfare system that helps people into work, supports those who need help, and is fair to those who pay for it. The staff from the jobcentres in Amber Valley, who are assisting with the transition to Universal Credit, value the simplicity of the new system, and I hope my constituents will too for the continuation of the rollout.

Rightly for a programme of this scale, my priority continues to be its safe and secure delivery, and I personally support efforts made by this Government to ensure the transition from legacy benefits and tax credits on to Universal Credit is as smooth as possible.

At the heart of Universal Credit is the belief that work should always pay, and when fully rolled out, Universal Credit will help 200,000 more people in to work. It has already been shown that those claiming Universal Credit are 13% more likely to be in work than people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, a statistic which will continue to rise as Universal Credit is rolled out. It is important to note that under the new system, benefits will be withdrawn gradually as claimants start work or increase their earnings, meaning their total income always goes up.

This month, a Universal Support partnership with Citizens Advice was announced, which helps vulnerable people move on to Universal Credit in a timely and safe manner. It is of significant importance to me, that the migration of people on to Universal Credit from their existing benefit system is managed effectively and in a timely manner. There have been welcomed initiatives to further manage migration, including a range of new initiatives designed to aid the transition, such as transitional protection top ups. There is also deliberate flexibility and safeguards built into the process to ensure that vulnerable claimants, and those with complex needs, are supported throughout.

I had an opportunity to speak on the Opposition Day Debate on Universal Credit on Wednesday, where I stressed the importance of getting the transition right for absolutely everyone, and reiterated concerns discussed during my meeting with representatives from MIND; that Universal Credit should only be rolled out when it is absolutely sure that everyone gets what they are entitled to. It remains of the utmost importance to me that the movement of people on to is as seamless and possible, and I will continue to work with this Government to ensure this happens.

As a member of the Work and Pensions Committee, I am continuing to scrutinise the changes made to Universal Credit, and calling on the government to make a number of improvements. I want to ensure that people don’t have gaps in their funding upon transitioning to Universal Credit. I believe that the Department of Work and Pension’s position on migration needs to adapt; to ensure that vulnerable individuals are moved on to Universal Credit, rather than expecting individuals to make more claims when they may not be in a position to do so. Finally, I believe that better funding is required to ensure that lone parents and second earners are always better off in work. I will continue to raise improvements which I deem necessary to Universal Credit, to ensure it is a system that supports the vulnerable, and a system that ultimately makes work pay.