Ruth Jones Written Questions

12 Questions to Department for Work and Pensions tabled by Ruth Jones


Date Title Questioner
3 Jul 2020, 2:49 p.m. Universal Credit Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of recent trends in the average levels of household debt for people in receipt of universal credit.

Answer (Will Quince)

Claimants may find themselves in debt for a variety of reasons, many of which can pre-date their claim to Universal Credit. The Department encourages people out of work, or on a low income, to consider whether claiming Universal Credit could provide them with additional support before issues, such as debt, spiral out of control. We promote Universal Credit through various external channels, including through the ‘Understanding Universal Credit’ website, to help people navigate the range of support available and provide information about how to apply.

Work Coaches are trained to gauge claimants’ financial needs from their first contact and can refer them to more specialist support for personal budgeting, money guidance and debt advice if required, including through the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS). MaPS has a statutory responsibility to deliver free and impartial money and pensions guidance and debt advice to anyone that needs it. It is also required to have regard to the needs of people in vulnerable circumstances.

Our own analysis shows that Universal Credit in fact reduces debts such as rent arrears. Supporting research carried out by the National Federation of ALMOs, shows over three quarters of their tenants come onto Universal Credit with pre-existing rent arrears. It also shows that arrears tend to increase prior to making a claim for Universal Credit, and that Universal Credit actually appears to be helping to clear arrears over time.

1 Jul 2020, 5:06 p.m. Employment: Mental Health Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment her Department has made of trends in the level of incidences of (a) stress, (b) anxiety and (c) depression for those in work.

Answer (Justin Tomlinson)

The information requested is not available.

The Government recognises the need to monitor trends in mental health and work as the UK responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department is actively reviewing available information on mental health and work, which will enable examination of trends in due course, and intends to examine changes in mental health for people in work as data becomes available.

12 May 2020, 1:52 p.m. Universal Credit Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to ensure that the monthly assessment period for universal credit takes into account a claimant's fluctuating income.

Answer (Will Quince)

Universal Credit replaced a highly complex system of multiple benefits with a single monthly payment and introduced a simple taper system to ensure that claimants were better off in work keeping more of what they earn compared to the Legacy system

The amount of Universal Credit paid to claimants reflects, as closely as possible, the actual circumstances of a household during each monthly assessment period. Monthly assessment periods align to the way the majority of employees are paid and also allows Universal Credit to be adjusted each month. This means that if a claimant’s income falls, they will not have to wait several months for a rise in their Universal Credit.

10 Mar 2020, 11:26 a.m. Social Security Benefits: Muscular Dystrophy Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the implications for her policies of Muscular Dystrophy UK's report entitled, Below standard: MDUK’s assessment of the benefits system, published on 28 February 2020.

Answer (Justin Tomlinson)

The Department places a strong emphasis on engaging with stakeholders to inform health and disability policy to ensure we are addressing the right problems in the welfare system. Muscular Dystrophy UK’s report entitled ‘Below standard: MDUK’s assessment of the benefits system’ offers insights into the challenges faced by people living with muscle-wasting conditions.

Government will reflect carefully on these findings in the DWP Green Paper on health and disability benefits and support.

3 Mar 2020, 11:58 a.m. Universal Credit: Disability Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment her Department has made of the effect of the introduction of universal credit on the financial circumstances of disabled claimants.

Answer (Justin Tomlinson)

The Government has made a commitment to publish a new National Strategy for Disabled People in 2020, focusing on removing barriers to ensure disabled people can lead a life of opportunity and fully participate in British society. The strategy will be developed with disabled people, disability organisations and charities, and will support disabled people in all aspects and phases of their lives, including housing, education, transport and jobs.

Millions of people who move onto Universal Credit from legacy benefits are better off, including around a million disabled households who will gain on average around £100 per month.

The Department takes seriously the need to support vulnerable claimants, and wants the application process for Universal Credit to be as quick and easy as possible, ensuring that claimants receive money at the earliest opportunity. We have listened to feedback on how we can improve Universal Credit to support our claimants and acted quickly, making improvements such as extending advances, removing waiting days, and introducing housing benefit run on. These changes are giving support to those who need it most, whilst at the same time helping people get into work faster.

The Severe Disability Premium (SDP) gateway has been in place for over a year to prevent those claimants entitled to the SDP as part of their legacy benefit from claiming Universal Credit. We have successfully identified eligible former SDP claimants who have already moved to Universal Credit due to a change in circumstances, providing them with monthly payments and a lump sum in arrears, where appropriate.

As of 17 January 2020, 15,397 claims have been paid an SDP transitional payment. The median value of the lump sum payments is £2,280. To date, over £51.5m has been disbursed to support former SDP claimants, including the recurring payments that have now commenced.

Through our network of Jobcentres, the Department is taking a range of action to support disadvantaged groups, working closely with employers and partners in their local community to provide opportunities to help them move closer and into employment.

8 Oct 2019, 10:24 a.m. Occupational Pensions: Newport West Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many and what proportion of people have (a) opted out after being auto-enrolled into a workplace pension and (b) saved more than the auto-enrolment minimum contribution in Newport West constituency in the latest period for which figures are available.

Answer (Guy Opperman)

Automatic enrolment has achieved a quiet revolution through getting employees into the habit of pension saving, and reversing the decline in workplace pension participation in the decade prior to these reforms. Since automatic enrolment started in 2012 participation rates have been transformed with 87% of eligible employees saving into a workplace pension in 2018, up from 55% in 2012.

The Department does not hold data for individual constituencies in relation to opt outs or the number of individuals who have saved above the automatic enrolment minimum contribution level. However, we do know that overall around 9% of automatically enrolled workers have chosen to opt out which is significantly below original estimates; and our latest evaluation report shows that, in April 2017, approximately 5.9 million eligible employees were already meeting the April 2019 minimum contribution rates.

I am providing the following information about the impact of automatic enrolment in your constituency, as of August 2019:

In the Newport West constituency, since 2012, approximately 11,000 eligible jobholders have been automatically enrolled and 1,400 employers have met their duties.

Automatic Enrolment Evaluation Report 2018, available via the following weblink: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/764964/Automatic_Enrolment_Evaluation_Report_2018.pdf.

The Pensions Regulator’s data on Automatic enrolment declaration of compliance by constituency, available via the following weblink:

https://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/en/document-library/research-and-analysis/data-requests.

7 Oct 2019, 1:29 p.m. Universal Credit Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment her Department has made of the effect of the roll-out of universal credit on trends in the level of referrals to food banks.

Answer (Will Quince)

The Department does not keep official statistics on food bank use, so no such assessment has been completed. Some food aid providers produce statistics on the number of food parcels distributed, but the Government has no plans to require individual food banks to keep records as this would place a significant burden on charitable and voluntary organisations.

We have listened to feedback on how we can improve Universal Credit to support our claimants and acted quickly, making improvements such as extending advances, removing waiting days, and introducing housing benefit run on. These changes are giving support to vulnerable people who need it most, whilst at the same time helping people get into work faster.

7 Oct 2019, 1:09 p.m. Poverty: Children Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment her Department has made of trends in the level of child poverty.

Answer (Will Quince)

National statistics on the number of children in relative and absolute low income are set out in the annual "Households Below Average Income" publication available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/789816/hbai-2017-2018-tables-ods-files.zip

In the latest low income statistics, the number of children in low income increased in three of the four measures.

Since 2009/2010 there has been a 1 percentage point reduction in child poverty on an absolute before housing cost (BHC) basis.

The evidence shows that work is the best route out of poverty and there are 730,000 fewer children in workless households compared with 2010.

7 Oct 2019, 12:46 p.m. Social Security Benefits Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the effect of (a) sanctions and (b) conditionality on the (i) health and well-being of claimants and (ii) the ability of claimants to enter employment.

Answer (Mims Davies)

Evidence from international studies indicates that benefit systems supported by conditionality are effective at moving people into work and that sanctions are a key part of conditionality. Transitions into work typically increase following a sanction.

The Department has committed to doing an evaluation of the effectiveness of Universal Credit sanctions at supporting claimants to search for work in response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s report on benefit sanctions. The Department will look to publish this by the end of 2019.

With regards to health and well-being, the Department has not made such assessment. We engage at a personal and individual level with all claimants; Legislation already enables work coaches to tailor conditionality, apply easements, set ‘voluntary’ work-related requirements (therefore, there is no risk of a sanction) or even switch off work-related requirements altogether where it is more appropriate for the individual, in light of their circumstances, including health conditions or disability.

4 Oct 2019, 2:33 p.m. Department for Work and Pensions: Official Hospitality Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how much her Department spent on refreshments in (a) 2017 and (b) 2018.

Answer (Mims Davies)

The information requested is not collated centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

4 Oct 2019, 12:30 p.m. Department for Work and Pensions: Travel Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how much her Department spent on ministerial travel by (a) first class, (b) second class and (c) in total in 2017.

Answer (Mims Davies)

The information requested can only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

However, the Government publishes data on ministerial overseas travel on a quarterly basis in arrears on GOV.UK. Links to this information for 2017 and 2018 can be found below.

Jan 17 – Mar 17

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/623402/ministers-overseas-travel-jan-mar-2017.ods

Apr 17 – Jun 17

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/651138/ministers-overseas-travel-apr-jun-2017.ods

Jul 17 – Sep 17

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/666399/dwp-ministers-overseas-travel-jul-sep-2017.csv/preview

Oct 17 – Dec 17

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/693210/dwp-ministers-travel-oct-dec-17.csv/preview

Jan 18 – Mar 18

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/751896/ministers-overseas-travel-jan-mar-2018.csv/preview

Apr 18 – Jun 18

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/750512/dwp-ministers-travel-apr-jun-2018.csv/preview

Jul 18 – Sep 18

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/763723/dwp-ministers-travel-jul-sep-2018.csv/preview

Oct 18 – Dec 18

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/786896/dwp-ministers-travel-oct-dec-2018.csv/preview

4 Oct 2019, 12:30 p.m. Department for Work and Pensions: Travel Ruth Jones

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how much his Department spent on ministerial travel by (a) first class, (b) second class and (c) in total in 2018.

Answer (Mims Davies)

The information requested can only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

However, the Government publishes data on ministerial overseas travel on a quarterly basis in arrears on GOV.UK. Links to this information for 2017 and 2018 can be found below.

Jan 17 – Mar 17

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/623402/ministers-overseas-travel-jan-mar-2017.ods

Apr 17 – Jun 17

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/651138/ministers-overseas-travel-apr-jun-2017.ods

Jul 17 – Sep 17

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/666399/dwp-ministers-overseas-travel-jul-sep-2017.csv/preview

Oct 17 – Dec 17

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/693210/dwp-ministers-travel-oct-dec-17.csv/preview

Jan 18 – Mar 18

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/751896/ministers-overseas-travel-jan-mar-2018.csv/preview

Apr 18 – Jun 18

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/750512/dwp-ministers-travel-apr-jun-2018.csv/preview

Jul 18 – Sep 18

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/763723/dwp-ministers-travel-jul-sep-2018.csv/preview

Oct 18 – Dec 18

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/786896/dwp-ministers-travel-oct-dec-2018.csv/preview