I have signed the following joint letter with cross party MP's about the roll out of Universal Credit:
Rt Hon David Gauke MP
Secretary of State
Department of Work & Pensions
Dear Secretary of State
Please delay the planned huge expansion of Universal Credit.
We write to ask you to please urgently reconsider the planned huge expansion of the roll-out of Universal Credit next month.
Universal Credit has been rolled out to 57 areas so far this year and has around 500,000 household recipients. As you know, the planned expansion from October is to 55 further areas per month – set to flood the system with almost as many applicants again, every single month.
In light of the mounting evidence of the problems caused by long delays in benefit payments - long-term debt, rent arrears and evictions, and the resulting impact on family relationships, anxiety and depression - we urge you to proceed with continued caution with Universal Credit so as not to endanger the millions of people due to be affected in the next few months.
Last week the DWP Select Committee heard about the current problems with the system and the information released by DWP showed that on the basis of roll-out to only 5 new areas per month:
1. Only 77% of claims are currently processed and paid within 6 weeks. The 6 week delay causes considerable hardship, but further delays cause real long-term damage to family finances, with long-term debt, bank problems, and direct debit payment of bills no longer available. The huge influx of new claimants will cause hundreds of thousands more families to suffer such problems.
2. Many claimants are unaware of hardship payments and by the time they claim it is too late to prevent debt problems.
3. Only around 40% of users successfully log into the Gov.UK ‘Verify’ system to make an online claim. New Universal Credit applicants in the roll-out are from more vulnerable groups, less likely to have IT or be able to use the complicated system.
4. The ‘Helpline’ cannot be contacted. We are told that phone waits are down to 3 minutes, but that is because after 3 minutes the caller receives an automated message to look online and is then cut off.
5. The Landlord Portal is only at the bare minimum of functionality. It needs to be fully functioning and rolled out to all Councils and large-scale housing providers so they can assist with applicant queries and are aware when claimants have not received their UC payment so we do not see unnecessary evictions.
Please would you ensure that these problems are fully fixed and that the Universal Credit application process is working well for the current small number of applicants before the Full Service is rolled out to so many more as it will otherwise create deep-rooted hardship for families and long-term problems for millions of families that will be far more difficult and costly to resolve.
I have signed the following joint letter with cross party MP's about the roll out of Universal Credit: Rt Hon David Gauke MP Secretary of State Department of Work...
After weeks of speculation regarding the Government lifting the public sector pay cap, this week’s announcement demonstrates that it is business as usual. The derisory increase in prison officer pay announced this morning goes nowhere close to meeting the rise in inflation, which rose to 2.9% in figures released this week.
Despite Tory rhetoric about proposals to lift the public sector pay cap, it is clear that no such move is intended.
Rather than announcing a raise for undervalued and underpaid staff, the Government has announced further cuts in pay for police and prison staff. To make matters worse the funding for these derisory increases will come from existing budgets, which means further cuts to frontline staff.
Labour will end the public sector pay cap – because our public sector workers deserve a fair wage.
For seven years public sector workers have seen deep cuts to their pay. It is a disgrace that one in five NHS staff are forced to take a second job simply to get by.
How can it be that, in the fifth richest nation on earth, public sector workers in Scunthorpe are forced to rely on emergency foodbanks?
With public sector pay falling faster than private pay and with another increase in the rate of inflation, Labour will scrap the 1% pay cap for all public sector workers.
On the same day we see inflation rise to 2.9% we get this derisory attempt by the Tories to pretend they are lifting the public sector pay cap, when in reality they are still going ahead with a pay cut in real terms for prison and police officers. And to add further insult to injury, the Government are paying for this minimal change by further cuts to their already strained budgets.
Only Labour is prepared to ensure that our dedicated public sector workers are truly recognised for what they do for their communities by ending the public sector pay cap for all public sector workers.
Together we can ensure that our public sector workers get the pay and the respect that they deserve.
After weeks of speculation regarding the Government lifting the public sector pay cap, this week’s announcement demonstrates that it is business as usual. The derisory increase in prison officer...
North Lincolnshire Council were the lowest spenders of Discretionary Housing Payments in the country for financial year 2016/17. This is money given to councils by Government to help local people who fall into short term difficulties paying their rent. Unspent money is sent back and spent elsewhere in the country.
Conservative North Lincolnshire Council spent the lowest proportion of money allocated, spending only 17% of their allocation on helping local people. Of the 375 councils that spent their Discretionary Housing Payments budget only eight spent less than half.
I have obtained figures from the Department for Work and Pensions which show that North Lincolnshire had £294,816 available to spend from the Government but spent only £50,735.
The seven local authorities who spent less cash than North Lincolnshire Council all spend above 45% of the money made available to them.
Discretionary Housing Payments are temporary and made available to people who due to a change in circumstances are struggling to cover their rent. It can also help with one-off costs like a rent deposit, rent in advance or removal costs to help you move into a new home.
Many people have struggled to make ends meet because of the Bedroom Tax and other changes in circumstance. The Discretionary Housing Payments is there to assist in these times of trouble. North Lincolnshire Council spent nothing to help people in the following areas:
To help with short term rental costs while the claimant seeks employment- £0
To help with on-going rental costs for disabled person in adapted accommodation- £0
To help with on-going rental costs for a foster carer- £0
The amount spent on helping to secure and move on to alternative accommodation (e.g. rent deposit) for those affected by Local Housing Allowance reforms North Lincolnshire spend £7.
This money is given to local authorities for them to spend helping local people. It is money that would be spent in the local area in local businesses.
People contact me every week where there circumstances have changed and they find it difficult to pay their rent in the short term. Too often they are refused Discretionary Housing Payments by our Conservative Council. And the money that could have been spent to help them is spent elsewhere in the country. It’s time for the Council to wake up to its responsibilities and use the money that it is given to help local people who are struggling.
North Lincolnshire Council were the lowest spenders of Discretionary Housing Payments in the country for financial year 2016/17. This is money given to councils by Government to help local people...
The debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill began last week and the vote on the Second Reading will be late tonight. If the Bill is not passed as second reading it dies and the Government will have to bring a different Bill to the House.
I want to be clear with you - this Bill is not about whether Britain leaves the EU.
That issue was settled by the referendum result and the vote to trigger Article 50 which I and the vast majority of Labour MPs supported.
Labour has been very clear: we respect the referendum result and recognise that Britain is leaving the EU. This Bill today is about how we leave the EU, what role Parliament has in the process and how we safeguard vital rights and protections as we leave.
Sadly, in its current form the Bill is not acceptable. We need to get the Government to address our very real concerns through the parliamentary process. As it stands this Bill will put huge, unaccountable power into the hands of this minority Tory Government, sidelining Parliament on major decisions around workers’ rights, equality rights, consumer rights and environmental protection.
It will take power away from Parliament and that's not what people voted for. Hopefully the Government will step back from this power grab and behave responsibly by responding constructively to these very real concerns. We can then crack on together with the very difficult job in hand.
The debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill began last week and the vote on the Second Reading will be late tonight. If the Bill is not passed as second reading it...
The education of young people is important not only to individuals, but to this country as a whole. To be a prosperous UK, particularly in a post-Brexit world, we need to make sure that our future workforce are provided with the skills and knowledge needed for their future careers. To do this effectively, we must ensure that our colleges and schools are provided with the right resources.
According to figures from the Sixth Form Colleges Association, the average education funding per 11-16 student is £5,751. This drops to an average of £4,531 for 16-18 education. The rates paid by the Department for Education have been fixed in cash terms since 2013 despite inflationary pressures each year.
There is a growing gap between the funding made available to educate this age group and the actual cost of delivering a high quality curriculum. This has had a significant impact on students as the current funding levels mean that most young people only receive around 15 hours of teaching and support per week. This is considerably less than in other high performing education systems in other countries.
If no action is taken, this will have a detrimental impact on the commitment to improving the skills of the UK population. Earlier this year, the Chancellor announced plans in the Budget to invest £500 million as part of the proposed T Levels outlined in the Post-16 Skills Plan and Lord Sainsbury’s Review. This increase in funding for students aged 16-19 studying technical courses will equate to around 25 hours per week but is only likely to cover around 25% of those in education. Higher study hours should be an aspiration for everyone. The Government was right to identify that students studying technical courses require additional support to succeed, but the same is true of young people studying A Levels and applied general qualifications – particularly disadvantaged students.
It’s because of this that I’m pleased to be holding a debate in Westminster Hall this afternoon on the issue. For too long, young people have been shortchanged when it comes to education. A high-quality curriculum needs proper investment. The importance of teaching hours and student contact time should not be underestimated. The Government has a duty to ensure that young people have access to the learning hours needed to give them every opportunity to succeed.
The education of young people is important not only to individuals, but to this country as a whole. To be a prosperous UK, particularly in a post-Brexit world, we need...