Written Question
Disability: Coronavirus
3 Aug 2020, 4:16 p.m.

Questioner: Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled people; and what plans are in place to aid recovery from that impact.

Answer (Baroness Stedman-Scott)

The Government is committed to supporting disabled people affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. We continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people using existing and new data sources.

The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work has had discussions with charities, disabled people's organisations and individuals to understand the range of experiences disabled people have had during the COVID-19 pandemic and to identify the support needed as lockdown restrictions are eased

We are ensuring that disabled people continue to have access to disability benefits, food, medicines, essentials, accessible communications, updated guidance, including workplace and transport related guidance, as well as financial and other support during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Government continues to provide disability employment support through initiatives such as Access to Work, Disability Confident, the Work and Health Programme, Intensive Personalised Employment Support, and other forms of support that disabled people need to retain, adapt and move into employment.

The Cabinet Office Disability Unit continues to work with disability stakeholders and across Government Departments to ensure that the needs of disabled people are considered in the UK Government’s response to COVID-19. We are clear that consideration of equality impacts must be integral in all key policy decisions. All equality and discrimination laws and obligations continue to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will publish the National Strategy for Disabled People taking into account the impacts of the pandemic on disabled people. The Strategy will focus on the issues that disabled people say affect them the most in all aspects and phases of life, including employment, housing, education and transport.


Written Question
Immigration: EU Nationals
31 Jul 2020, 1:06 p.m.

Questioner: Lord Bowness

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the provisions of clause 5 of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill are planned to enable Ministers to make regulations which could result in EU citizens with EU settled status receiving less favourable social security benefits than UK citizens.

Answer (Baroness Stedman-Scott)

The Withdrawal Agreement protects the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU by the end of the transition period.

The Government has been clear that changes made by regulations under Clause 5 of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill cannot be used to remove rights guaranteed under the Withdrawal Agreement.


Written Question
Industrial Health and Safety: Coronavirus
30 Jul 2020, 4:43 p.m.

Questioner: Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what role they expect the Health and Safety Executive to play in (1) breaking transmission chains, and (2) establishing what allowed the transmission of the virus, in respect of workplace outbreaks of COVID-19; and what, if any, extra resources they have provided to enable any such role.

Answer (Baroness Stedman-Scott)

Public health authorities lead multi-agency outbreak investigation teams and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a significant role to play when a workplace is involved. HSE contributes information about the extent and effectiveness of infection risk controls in the workplace enabling the team to draw conclusions about likely infection routes.

HSE is also carrying out proactive spot checks of workplaces to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from COVID-19, and provides guidance on relevant COVID-19 risk controls for businesses and organisations on it’s website (www.hse.gov.uk).

Establishing what allowed the transmission of the virus is a priority and HSE engages across government with Public Health England (PHE), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Food Standards Agency and the devolved administrations; sharing data and learning lessons. HSE’s Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) is on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and co-Chairs the Environmental and Modelling group which aims to provide scientific information on transmission in the built environment, which would include many workplaces. This group have been engaging with PHE, the Department for Health and Social Care and others to ensure that environmental considerations have been considered during outbreak management.

The Government has made available up to an extra £14.2 million for HSE to support the provision of advice and regulatory activities. These funds will be drawn down throughout the year to bring in additional inspectors, call centre staff and equipment as required.


Written Question
Kickstart Scheme
29 Jul 2020, 5:58 p.m.

Questioner: Bridget Phillipson

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will publish any modelling his Department has undertaken on the potential effect of the Kickstart scheme on unemployment rates among people aged (a) 25 to 29; (b) 30 to 39; (c) 40 to 49; (d) 50 to 59 and (e) 60 or over.

Answer (Mims Davies)

Jobs available to young people, aged 16-24, will be new jobs - with the funding conditional on the employer demonstrating that these jobs are additional.

Initially we shall target young people at risk of long-term unemployment, with scope to extend the scheme dependent on the number of additional jobs of the right quality that are created.

Many factors influence unemployment rates. We anticipate that Kickstart will have a positive effect on employment prospects of individuals participating in the scheme [but this has not been modelled].


Written Question
Unemployment: Coronavirus
28 Jul 2020, 5:57 p.m.

Questioner: Sir David Evennett

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on the level of unemployment in (a) London, (b) Bexley Borough and (c) Bexleyheath and Crayford constituency.

Answer (Mims Davies)

The latest ONS headline figures for unemployment published in July for the quarter ending May 2020, remain at 3.9%.

DWP publishes, via its Stat Xplore website, official statistics on the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits by parliamentary constituency and local authority area (the ‘Alternative Claimant Count’).

Estimates of the number of people who are unemployed are compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Annual Population Survey (APS).

The LFS provides national and regional unemployment estimates whilst the APS, which is a modified version of the LFS, allows sub-regional analysis.

Estimates are based on a sample of cases and therefore subject to sampling uncertainty. Unemployment estimates at sub-regional geographies such as local authorities and parliamentary constituencies are especially uncertain.

The latest figures from the LFS estimate that in the quarter March-May 20 there were 256,000 people unemployed in London. This equates to an unemployment rate for London of 5.1% - an increase of 0.6 %pts on the December-February 20 quarter.

All estimates of unemployment used in this answer are publicly available on the NOMIS website (https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/). All estimates of Alternative Claimant Count used in this answer are publicly available on the StatXplore website (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/alternative-claimant-count-statistics-january-2013-to-may-2020).

ONS considers its estimate of unemployment in Bexleyheath and Crayford constituency to be statistically unreliable as the sample size is based on fewer than 10 people.


Written Question
Bereavement Benefits
28 Jul 2020, 5:35 p.m.

Questioner: Angela Richardson

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the judgment in relation to (a) R (Jackson and Simpson) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2020] EWHC 183 (Admin) and (b) i n the matter of an application by Siobhan McLaughlin for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland), what progress her Department’s has made on amend her Department's policies on (i) bereavement support payment and (ii) widowed parents allowance.

Answer (Mims Davies)

It is our intention to take forward a Remedial Order to remove the incompatibilities from the legislation governing Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payment by extending these benefits to cohabitees with children. We intend to lay the Order before the House in due course.


Written Question
Child Maintenance Service: Secondment
28 Jul 2020, 5:33 p.m.

Questioner: Alan Brown

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many employees have been seconded from the Child Maintenance Services (CMS) to other sections of her Department as a result of the covid-19 outbreak; when the CMS will be return to the staffing levels before the covid-19 outbreak; and if she will make a statement.

Answer (Mims Davies)

To meet the unprecedented demand for benefits during the pandemic, the Department redeployed over 10,000 staff to critical frontline work, streamlined processes and increased the capacity of our IT systems. This included approximately 1,700 out of around 6,800 members of staff from the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to support Universal Credit (UC) and Jobseekers Allowance.

Staff began to return to the CMS from July 2020, and the Service will take a staged approach to make use of returning resource over the next few months.


Written Question
Department for Work and Pensions: Staff
28 Jul 2020, 5:33 p.m.

Questioner: Alan Brown

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the adequacy of staffing levels in her Department to (a) process claims and payments and (b) to provide unemployment support services effectively; and if she will make a statement.

Answer (Mims Davies)

The Department is doing all we can to deal with exceptional levels of demand. Our priority is ensuring people get their benefit payments and that we can continue to support those who need them most. The Department has mobilised robust business continuity plans to ensure we can do just that.

We have introduced new processes to ease pressure on waiting times for identity verification over the phone and other processes. People making new claims for Universal Credit no longer need to call the Department as part of the process. Once they have completed their online application we will call them if we need to check any of the information they have given us.

Jobcentres have remained open throughout, providing support to our most vulnerable customers. In line with the easing of restrictions in England, from 1st July, people will be able to make an appointment with their Work Coach if they can’t get the help they want online or over the phone. Work Coaches, as part of the individualised approach, will be calling all claimants to engage with them. We will continue to be align with current guidance from Scotland and Wales.

The Department is continually assessing the service being offered to customers and we continue to keep staff numbers under review as part of our response to the impact of Covid-19 on the labour market and our support for jobseekers during this difficult time.

We have already committed to increasing the number of Work Coaches [13500] and Case Managers, and recruitment is already underway.


Written Question
Universal Credit
28 Jul 2020, 5:25 p.m.

Questioner: Neil Gray

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the evidential basis is for her Department's decision to restrict the eligibility criteria for a work allowance as part of universal credit.

Answer (Will Quince)

Work Allowances remain focussed on providing an additional work incentive for some of the more vulnerable claimants and are just one of many elements of Universal Credit designed to provide work incentives and support to people moving into and progressing in work.

The Government has made significant investment to improve Universal Credit’s generosity through the reduction in the taper rate from 65% to 63% in 2017, and an extra £1.7 billion a year put into Work Allowances by 2023/24, increasing them by £1,000 a year for working parents and disabled claimants, from April 2019 - an extra £630 a year in the pockets of 2.4 million of the lowest paid families.


Written Question
Universal Credit
28 Jul 2020, 1:06 p.m.

Questioner: Baroness Lister of Burtersett

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proportion of new claimants of Universal Credit are moving from legacy benefits in each month of this year.

Answer (Baroness Stedman-Scott)

The information requested is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.


Written Question
Universal Credit
28 Jul 2020, 1:06 p.m.

Questioner: Baroness Lister of Burtersett

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the judgment in R (Pantellerisco) -v- The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that the "earned income calculation is irrational and unlawful" in relation to the Universal Credit and the benefit cap. [T]

Answer (Baroness Stedman-Scott)

It is not appropriate to comment at this time as court proceedings are live.


Written Question
Department for Work and Pensions: Renewable Energy
28 Jul 2020, 12:46 p.m.

Questioner: Layla Moran

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the Answer of 26 June 2020 to Question 60659 on Renewable energy, what plans her Department has to install solar panels and wind turbines on its buildings in the next five years.

Answer (Mims Davies)

DWP is in the process of drafting and internally socialising its Carbon & Utilities Management Plan, covering 2020 to 2025 to meet the Greening Government Commitments targets and the UK Net Zero Carbon emissions trajectory. DWP’s approach is to reduce emissions utilising the Energy Management Hierarchy. With this in mind, and when the plan is agreed, we will commit to investigate opportunities to reduce site energy and building baseloads and where economics are favourable whilst using our Crown Commercial Services frameworks we will consider but not limit ourselves to the following renewable & low or zero carbon schemes:

1. District Heat Networks (DHNs)

We will commit to explore and work with UK city wide DHN developments to decarbonise the heat demand within our buildings.

2. Water/ground/air source heat pumps

We will commit to carry out Low or Zero Carbon studies where we instruct new builds and major refurbishments.

3. Photovoltaic and thermal installations

We will commit to exploring utilising our car parks and building rooftops for solar PV and solar thermal systems.

4. Wind generators

We will commit to reviewing our sites to assess the practicality of using wind turbine technology.


Written Question
Occupational Pensions: Coronavirus
28 Jul 2020, 12:11 p.m.

Questioner: Harriett Baldwin

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the level of opt-out from auto-enrollment into workplace pensions during the covid-19 lockdown period.

Answer (Guy Opperman)

The Department does not yet have suitable data to make an assessment of the number of employees who have reduced their contributions, or have stopped saving, since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown period.

We are monitoring the impacts of covid-19 on workplace pension participation and saving levels and are working closely with the pensions industry and across government to understand the impact of the emergency.

Helping people to save for their futures remains a key priority for this Government. We put in place an unprecedented package of support to strengthen job and income security during the emergency; this included help to ease workplace pension saving for businesses with furloughed workers. As part of the next phase of its response, the Government’s goal is to support, create and protect jobs; and giving businesses confidence to retain and hire workers supports the capacity for retirement saving.


Written Question
Universal Credit: Self-employment Income Support Scheme
27 Jul 2020, 4:56 p.m.

Questioner: Karin Smyth

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the Answer of 26 June 2020 to Question 63380, whether her Department collects information on which universal credit claimants have received a payment under the Self-employment Income Support Scheme; and what estimate her Department has made of the cost of publishing that information.

Answer (Mims Davies)

HMRC owns this information on Self Employed Income Support Scheme. DWP has made no estimate of the cost of undertaking or publishing any analysis of the scheme and its links with Universal Credit.


Written Question
Universal Credit: Terminal Illnesses
27 Jul 2020, 11:03 a.m.

Questioner: Jessica Morden

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent estimate she has made of the proportion of people making special rules for terminal illness claims for universal credit who are (a) unsuccessful and (b) told to apply for universal credit under standard rules.

Answer (Justin Tomlinson)

Estimates could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Data exists in the system that would require matching across a number of data sets, which is a substantial piece of work. The required information is therefore not all readily available to analysts in a format that would enable them to undertake the analysis and quality assure the figures, to answer this PQ in the timescales.


Written Question
Universal Credit: Terminal Illnesses
27 Jul 2020, 10:51 a.m.

Questioner: Jessica Morden

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many and what proportion of claims for the disability component of universal credit were made under the special rules for terminal illness in each year since 2016.

Answer (Justin Tomlinson)

Information about the number of UC claimants who declare a Terminal Illness can only be provided at disproportionate cost because the required information is not all readily available to analysts in a format that would enable them to undertake the analysis and quality assure the figures, to answer this PQ in the timescales.


Written Question
Food Banks
24 Jul 2020, 3:39 p.m.

Questioner: Mark Tami

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether the signposting of claimants to local food banks is in the form of (a) pieces of paper, (b) other written communication, or (c) verbal communication; and whether any written communication provided is directly transferable at a food bank for food.

Answer (Will Quince)

The decision to award a food parcel is a matter for the food bank alone. The Department for Work and Pensions has long-standing guidance in place which allows staff to signpost claimants in writing to a food bank, using a nationally agreed signposting slip, where claimants have asked for information, and if all sources of statutory support have been exhausted.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, Jobcentres have been encouraged to take a flexible and innovative approach in their arrangements for signposting claimants to foodbanks, within the parameters of the existing guidance.


Written Question
Universal Credit
24 Jul 2020, 3:02 p.m.

Questioner: Neil Coyle

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate her Department has made of the cost to the public purse of ending the five-week wait for a first universal credit payment.

Answer (Will Quince)

It is not possible to award a Universal Credit payment as soon as a claim is made, as the assessment period must run its course before entitlement to Universal Credit can be calculated.

Advances allow new claimants to request additional support during the first assessment period. Advances can be repaid over a year, allowing new claimants to receive 13 payments during that period instead of 12. We have temporarily increased the Standard Allowance by £86.67 a month (equivalent to £20 per week, or £1040 per year). For many claimants, this additional amount will cover the average £54 per month advance repayment.

A non-repayable grant at the outset of a claim would potentially increase fraud and error levels and become susceptible to organised criminal activity. It may also encourage more speculative UC claims, potentially repeatedly, in order to access funds.


Written Question
Universal Credit
24 Jul 2020, 3:02 p.m.

Questioner: Neil Coyle

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the National Audit Office report entitled Universal Credit: getting to first payment, published 10 July 2020, what steps her Department is taking to reduce fraud and error in universal credit claims.

Answer (Will Quince)

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) takes the issue of fraud and error extremely seriously and continues to implement new initiatives to tackle it.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report (Universal Credit: getting to first payment) recognises at paragraph 2.23, that DWP and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) categorise fraud and error differently. Under the Tax Credit regime, HMRC makes a provisional award to claimants based on the information it holds and then calculates their actual entitlement after the end of the year. Any overpayment, due to a change in the claimant’s income during the year, does not count as fraud and error. Therefore, it is not possible to compare directly with Universal Credit.

NAO also acknowledge that DWP’s fraud and error levels were always going to increase as claimants migrate from Tax Credits (administered by HMRC) onto Universal Credit. DWP maintains that Universal Credit is better designed than the benefits it replaces and that, once in steady state, we still expect it to lead to savings in fraud and error and overpayments across welfare. As the NAO reported at paragraph 2.24 of their report there are net fraud savings from the introduction of Universal Credit to the Exchequer of £62m in 2018/19.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic we were making increased use of data and analytics as part of our approach to combatting fraud and error. We further optimised this capability following the outbreak of the pandemic by bringing together a number of intelligence teams from across the Department to create our Integrated Risk and Intelligence Service (IRIS). You will appreciate that it is not possible to describe the mechanics used by these teams without potentially compromising their effectiveness. However, by continuing to work across Government and with existing third party suppliers, IRIS helps to ensure a joined up approach to tackling fraud and error.

In addition, the verification of new claimants’ identities has remained at the core of the checks DWP undertakes before new claims are processed. Whilst DWP’s COVID-19 response has necessitated the removal of face to face contact with all but our most vulnerable customers, we have reduced the fraud and error risks this might pose, by introducing new and robust verification procedures. This includes the use of unique biographical questions (questions based on information DWP already holds about an individual), uploading ID documentation, and where appropriate, seeking additional verification via our newly established Enhanced Checking Service.


Written Question
Food Banks
24 Jul 2020, 3 p.m.

Questioner: Mark Tami

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether each instance of Jobcentre Plus staff signposting claimants to local food banks is recorded on a claimant's case record.

Answer (Will Quince)

Jobcentre staff are not required to keep records of the numbers of claimants signposted to food banks in their local area; however, in line with long-standing national guidance, they may record the issue of signposting slips for authentication purposes at the request of the local food bank.


Written Question
Unemployment: Young People
24 Jul 2020, 2:19 p.m.

Questioner: Jon Trickett

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many unemployment young people there are in (a) Hemsworth constituency, (b) Wakefield Council area and (c) West Yorkshire Combined Authority area.

Answer (Mims Davies)

Estimates of the number of people who are unemployed are compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using the Annual Population Survey (APS), a large household survey.

Estimates are based on a sample of cases and therefore subject to sampling uncertainty. Estimates at sub-regional geographies such as local authorities and parliamentary constituencies or sub-groups such as unemployed young people are especially uncertain.

New figures were released on 16 July 2020 for the April 2019 - March 2020 survey period on the NOMIS website.

(https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/)


Written Question
Jobcentres: Staff
24 Jul 2020, 2:14 p.m.

Questioner: Neil Gray

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the number of new Job Centres required to be opened to accommodate the work coaches announced in the Summer Financial Statement in (a) Scotland, (b) the UK and (c) Airdrie and Shotts.

Answer (Mims Davies)

We are currently evaluating how many new jobcentres we will need to respond to the economic consequences of the Covid pandemic. Further details will be provided to Parliament when our plans have been finalised.


Written Question
Poverty: Children
24 Jul 2020, 2:09 p.m.

Questioner: Jon Trickett

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many children were living in poverty in (a) Hemsworth constituency, (b) Wakefield Council area and (c) West Yorkshire Combined Authority area as at (i) 15 July 2010 and (ii) 15 July 2020.

Answer (Will Quince)

National Statistics on the number and percentage of children in low income are published annually in the “Households Below Average Income” publication. The rates of children in absolute poverty in the Yorkshire and the Humber region in the three years to 18/19 has decreased, both before and after housing costs, compared to the three years to 09/10.

Latest statistics for the number of children who are in low income for England and the Yorkshire and the Humber region can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/households-below-average-income-199495-to-201819, “children-hbai-timeseries-1994-95-2018-19-tables” in table 4.17ts (relative low income, before and after housing costs) and 4.23ts (absolute low income, before and after housing costs).

The Department now publishes supplementary official statistics on the number of children in low income families at constituency level. Children in Low Income Families data is published annually.

The latest figures from 2014/15 to 2018/19 can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/children-in-low-income-families-local-area-statistics-201415-to-201819


Written Question
Sick Pay: Coronavirus
23 Jul 2020, 3:59 p.m.

Questioner: Lord Mendelsohn

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether those who are extremely clinically vulnerable will have access to sick pay on receipt of a shielding letter if COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are re-introduced (1) nationally, and (2) locally.

Answer (Baroness Stedman-Scott)

Guidance around shielding will be continually reviewed and informed by the latest scientific evidence and advice. We will continue to assess the support in place should advice to shield be reinstated. If shielding guidance changes again either nationally, or locally, after 31 July and extremely clinically vulnerable individuals are again asked to shield, they will be entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay where they meet all eligibility criteria.


Written Question
Poverty: Children
23 Jul 2020, 3:48 p.m.

Questioner: Ian Lavery

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to assess whether there has been an increase in the number of children living in poverty due to the covid-19 outbreak.

Answer (Will Quince)

We understand that this is a difficult time for people on low incomes and we’ve taken significant action to support those affected by coronavirus, including through income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and additional support for renters. For those most in need we’ve injected more than £9 billion into the welfare system, which includes an increase to Universal Credit of up to £1,040 this financial year. These policies implemented in response to the outbreak have made a huge difference, particularly to those with low incomes.

This was shown in HMT’s recently published distributional analysis about the Impact of covid-19 on working household incomes. This publication shows that the lowest income decile of working households has seen no fall in income due to Government measures that have been put in place. This is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/impact-of-covid-19-on-working-household-incomes-distributional-analysis-as-of-may-2020