Michelle Ballantyne welcomes Universal Credit changes

Speaking in a London jobcentre this morning, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has announced a range of change to the UK Government’s Universal Credit policy.

Amongst the changes, Ms Rudd revealed that there would be new pilot schemes to provide more frequent payments for new claimants, a new online system for private landlords and a more flexible approach to childcare provisions.

Further changes come to the two-child limit. The Work and Pensions Secretary announced that children born before April 2017 would be supported by Universal Credit, a change from previous rules which said the limit would apply retrospectively to these children. The move is expected to help around 15,000 families a year.

Ms. Rudd outlined how she would be seeking powers for a pilot programme for managed migration, the process by which claimants are moved from the old ‘legacy’ benefits system to Universal Credit, which will begin in July this year The Secretary of State said that this would provide the Department of Work and Pensions with the best opportunity to learn how to provide the best support before she returned to Parliament to seek permission for future migration.

The Work and Pensions secretary reaffirmed her belief in Universal Credit, saying that it is working for the vast majority of people and reiterating that work gives purpose, dignity and security. She added that welfare systems should encourage an easy progression into rather than trapping claimants.

Michelle Ballantyne MSP, social security spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives, commented:

“I’m delighted that the Secretary of State has announced this raft of new measures to improve Universal Credit. Having raised these issues with the Department of Work and Pensions several times myself I am pleased to see the UK Government is listening and responding to the concerns of MPs and MSPs alike.

“These improvements not only support 15,000 families, they make Universal Credit fairer, more compassionate and more responsive to the needs of claimants.

“The decision to lift the 2-child limit for children born before April 2017 is the right move and I believe it is the fair thing to do.

“Other changes ensure that women receive improved support as well as helping landlords support tenants claiming universal credit by making it simpler for them to request direct rent payments.

“These changes are welcome improvements which will provide a better system for those claiming benefits, as well as supporting families across Midlothian, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders.”

Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said:

“Universal Credit is working for the vast majority of people, but to be a system that truly works for everyone, Universal Credit has to offer enough flexibility to adapt to personal circumstances - and particularly recognise the needs of the most vulnerable.

“As a nation, I believe we all want a decent safety net: if you’re facing a difficult moment in life, the state should be there to help you.

“But it is vital that people are supported by this safety net, not trapped beneath it.

“It is there to help a person get through a difficult stage in life – it is not meant to be a mode of long term subsistence for those who can work.

“I believe that for the vast majority of people it is ultimately work, not benefits, which provides the route to a better life.

“Work gives purpose, dignity, and security. The opportunity to provide for your family, progress in earnings and to build a fulfilling life.

“It is ultimately work that propels people forward in life, out of poverty. And the welfare system should clear a path for that route, not block it.

“As it stands, from February 2019 the two child limit will be applied to families applying for Universal Credit who had their children before the cap was even announced. That is not right.

“These parents made decisions about the size of the family when the previous system was the only system in place.

“So I can today announce that I am going to scrap the extension of the two-child limit on Universal Credit for children born before April 2017.

“All children born before that date will continue to be supported by Universal Credit. This will help approximately 15,000 families a year.”

In regards to managed migration; “The lessons from the pilot will inform our next steps, but there will be no overall delay.

Universal Credit migration will be completed, as planned, by 2023.  However I will consider carefully the results of the pilot, and its implications for scaling-up migration.”