Written Questions On Universal Credit

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My written Parliamentary questions to the Department of Work and Pensions over concerns about the roll-out of Universal Credit.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate he has made of the levels of uptake of advance payment of universal credit in (a) the UK, (b) Wales and (c) Aberavon constituency.

Damian Hinds: Any need for an advance payment or other financial or budgeting support should be established at the outset of a claim for Universal Credit. This includes existing benefit claimants who move to Universal Credit through a change of circumstances. In the initial new claim interview, work coaches are trained to offer personal budgeting support and assess whether claimants need help to manage until their first Universal Credit payment. If so they are advised to apply for an advance. Furthermore, additional work has been done by the Department to raise awareness of advances nationally, including providing options on the UC Helpline, and signposting through the new “Universal Credit & you” guide for claimants and on the new online Money Manager tool offered by the Money Advice Service. We will shortly be publishing data on advances.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of advice given by (a) work coaches and (b) universal credit journals on claiming the advance payment of universal credit.

Damian Hinds: Any need for an advance payment or other financial or budgeting support should be established at the outset of a claim for Universal Credit. This includes existing benefit claimants who move to Universal Credit through a change of circumstances. In the initial new claim interview, work coaches are trained to offer personal budgeting support and assess whether claimants need help to manage until their first Universal Credit payment. If so they are advised to apply for an advance. Furthermore, additional work has been done by the Department to raise awareness of advances nationally, including providing options on the UC Helpline, and signposting through the new “Universal Credit & you” guide for claimants and on the new online Money Manager tool offered by the Money Advice Service. We will shortly be publishing data on advances.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what support his Department provides for universal credit claimants for (a) budgeting, (b) managing a claim online and (c) complex claims.

Damian Hinds: By design, Universal Credit is a much simpler system than that it replaces. It is easier for claimants to understand their entitlements and easier to administer. Nonetheless, we recognise that it represents a significant change for claimants, and some will find it challenging. That is why Universal Credit has an unprecedented level of personalised support for each claimant and there are a number of safeguards to support them, especially at the start of the claim. For example advances are available to help people manage until their first payment, this can amount to 50% of their indicative award and is payable straight away.

Furthermore, ‘Universal Support’ is being rolled out alongside Universal Credit and is being delivered via a framework approach to allow third sector organisations and Local Authorities to work with jobcentres to deliver the support needed in their local
community. The aim is for claimants to receive integrated tailored support journeys and partners can achieve this through best use of local resources.

Part of this offer is budgeting support to help claimants manage their money on a monthly basis, pay bills on time and take responsibility for housing costs. Advice is offered by external organisations with the relevant expertise, online, by phone or
face-to-face. Where claimants need help making a claim online, ‘assisted digital’ support is available as part of the package, alongside telephone and face to face support. And for claimants who cannot manage their money on a monthly basis alternative payment arrangements are available. These can include payment of rent direct to a landlord, paying Universal Credit more frequently or splitting the payment between members of the household.

When debt problems are identified then the claimant can be referred on or signposted to other more specialised debt support services.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of introducing a comprehensive support package or strategy for those negatively affected by the roll-out of universal credit.

Damian Hinds: By design, Universal Credit is a much simpler system than that it replaces. It is easier for claimants to understand their entitlements and easier to administer. Nonetheless, we recognise that it represents a significant change for claimants, and some will find it challenging. That is why Universal Credit has an unprecedented level of personalised support for each claimant and there are a number of safeguards to support them, especially at the start of the claim. For example advances are available to help people manage until their first payment, this can amount to 50% of their indicative award and is payable straight away. 

Furthermore, ‘Universal Support’ is being rolled out alongside Universal Credit and is being delivered via a framework approach to allow third sector organisations and Local Authorities to work with jobcentres to deliver the support needed in their local
community. The aim is for claimants to receive integrated tailored support journeys and partners can achieve this through best use of local resources.

Part of this offer is budgeting support to help claimants manage their money on a monthly basis, pay bills on time and take responsibility for housing costs. Advice is offered by external organisations with the relevant expertise, online, by phone or
face-to-face. Where claimants need help making a claim online, ‘assisted digital’ support is available as part of the package, alongside telephone and face to face support. And for claimants who cannot manage their money on a monthly basis alternative payment arrangements are available. These can include payment of rent direct to a landlord, paying Universal Credit more frequently or splitting the payment between members of the household.

When debt problems are identified then the claimant can be referred on or signposted to other more specialised debt support services.