Universal Credit: response from the DWP

Following the recent survey SHAL took part in the Department for Work and Pensions have issued the following response:

I would like to turn to the report on Universal Credit published last week by the National Audit Office (NAO), which did not take into account the impact of our recent changes. Our analysis shows that Universal Credit is working; we already know it helps more people into work – and stay in work – than the legacy system. Universal Credit has brought together 6 main benefits, which were administered by different local and national government agencies. Once fully rolled-out, it will be a single, streamlined system – reducing administration costs and providing value for money for citizens. The cost per claim has already reduced by 7% since March 2018, and is due to reduce to £173 by 2024 to 2025; this is around £50 less per claim than legacy cases currently cost us to process.

Beyond the time span of the NAO report, we have greatly improved our payment timeliness. Around 80% of claimants are paid on time after their initial assessment period. Where new claims are not paid in full and on time, two thirds have been found to have some form of verification outstanding. Verification is a necessary part of any benefits system, and citizens expect these measures to be in place – we need to make sure we are paying the right people the right amount. Upon visiting jobcentres, the NAO observed good relationships between work coaches and claimants. The results we are seeing are thanks to the exceptional hard work that our work coaches put in, day-in and day-out, with claimants.

Universal Credit is projected to help 200,000 people into work, adding £8 billion per year to the economy when it is fully rolled-out. These are conservative estimates, based on robust analysis that has been signed-off by the Treasury. And at a user level, we know that 83% of Universal Credit claimants are happy with the service they receive.

Mr Speaker, we are building an agile, adaptable system, fit for the 21st century. We want people to reach their potential, regardless of their circumstances or background – and we will make changes when required, in order to achieve this ambition.

I commend this statement to the House.

– Esther McVey