In recent weeks, a number of unfair claims have been made about the Government’s roll-out of Universal Credit. I wanted to take this opportunity to address these claims. Universal Credit is a new benefits system designed to simplify the structure and make work pay, and the Forest of Dean has been using the new system since May 2015.
Universal Credit is a major reform that is transforming the welfare state in Britain, making three million people better off and bringing £33 billion in economic benefits to society. At the heart of Universal Credit is a belief that work should always pay. Under the new system, benefit will be withdrawn gradually as claimants start work or increase their earnings, meaning their total income goes up.
Rightly for a programme of this scale, the Government’s priority continues to be its safe and secure delivery. The controlled expansion of Universal Credit started in April 2013 and I am pleased that significant progress has been made to date. Universal Credit is now available for single claimants in every jobcentre in the country.
Evidence suggests that a significant majority of people claiming Universal Credit move into work in the first nine months of their claim, benefiting from extra support to earn more and progress in their careers. Since the start of controlled expansion of Universal Credit, early results have revealed that people claiming Universal Credit are more likely to be in work than people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, earning more money and more willing to take a job.
As well as providing more effective support to claimants through job centre work coaches, Universal Credit also brings increased flexibility. This is demonstrated by no limits to the number of hours claimants can work a week if they receive Universal Credit. The payment will reduce gradually as the claimant earns more and they won’t lose all their benefits at once if they’re on a low income.
Universal Credit is the sensible, rational and effective solution that our welfare state has lacked for so long. It is right that Conservatives in Government are making work pay and I look forward to the positive effect Universal Credit can bring to people in the Forest, across Gloucestershire and up and down the country.