Written questions and answers

Written questions allow Members of Parliament to ask government ministers for information on the work, policy and activities of government departments.

Historical written answers can be found in Hansard.

Find the latest written questions and answers for the 2017-19 session below. We welcome your feedback on this service.

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Asked on: 10 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Social Security Benefits: Uprating
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Buscombe on 8 July (HL16599), what would (1) the weekly rates of Child Benefit, and (2) the monthly rates of Universal Credit standard allowances and child elements have been, if they had been raised in line with the Consumer Price Index.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 23 July 2019

If the weekly rates of child benefit had been uprated with CPI the rates would have been:

Amount in 2019/20 if they had been uprated with CPI

First Child Rate

22.05

Subsequent Child Rate

14.60

If the monthly rates for the Universal Credit standard allowance and child element had been uprated with CPI from 2016/17 to 2019/20 the rates would have been:

Amount in 2019/20 if they had been uprated with CPI

Single under 25

268.21

Single 25 and over

338.57

Joint claimants both under 25

420.99

Joint claimants one or both over 25

531.46

Child amount (standard amount)

246.79

More information on benefit uprating can be found at: https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8458/CBP-8458.pdf

Briefing Paper -Benefits Uprating 2019 (PDF Document, 889.08 KB)
Q
Asked on: 15 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Pension Credit
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of (1) the number, and (2) percentage, of eligible state pensioners who claimed pension credit in (a) 2017–18, and (b) 2018–19; and how many pensioners are forecast to claim that benefit in 2019–20.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 23 July 2019

In 2016-17, 1.81m (60 per cent) of eligible state pensioners claimed Pension Credit. Corresponding figures for 2017-18 and 2018-19 are not yet available.

Official statistics on the take-up of income related benefits at Great Britain level, including Pension Credit, can be found in the ‘Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up in 2016 to 2017’ publication on gov.uk.

Historic and forecast benefit expenditure and caseload data relating to DWP benefits at Great Britain level, including Pension Credit, can be found in the ‘Benefit expenditure and caseload tables 2019’ publication on gov.uk.

Q
Asked by Lord Storey
Asked on: 16 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Welfare Assistance Schemes
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of local welfare assistance schemes.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 23 July 2019

The reforms to the Social Fund in 2013 allowed local authorities in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales to deliver their own local provision for people who are in need of urgent help. The Department for Work and Pension's (DWP) 2014 review found that local authorities delivered support more effectively than the previous provision and that councils are best placed to decide how to target flexible help to support local welfare needs. The Government has no further plans to review provision.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 17 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Poverty
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have (1) to review their policies to address poverty, and (2) to ensure sufficient services for and assistance to those at risk of destitution.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 23 July 2019

This Government is committed to a sustainable solution to poverty in all its forms, by building a strong economy and a benefit system that supports employment and higher pay. We have acted to increase the incomes of the poorest in society, for example, by increasing the National Living Wage and announcing a £4.5 billion cash boost to Universal Credit in the last Budget. We are also working with the Social Metrics Commission, and other experts in the field, to develop new experimental statistics which will help us to find new and better ways to analyse poverty in this country. These will be published in 2020 and, in the long-run, could help us target support more effectively.

Through our Jobcentre network, we are taking wider action to support vulnerable claimants. Work coaches are upskilled to recognise and help claimants with a wide range of complex employment barriers and work with external partners to offer individualised, specialist support to help people to turn their lives around.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 17 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Food Poverty
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to reduce the number of people who need to use food banks.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 23 July 2019

This Government is committed to a sustainable solution to poverty in all its forms, by building a strong economy and a benefit system that supports employment and higher pay. Households where all adults are in work are around 6 times less likely to be in relative poverty than adults in a household where nobody works. Compared to 2010, there are 3.7 million more people in work and around 1 million fewer workless households.

We have worked with food insecurity experts, the Office for National Statistics and the Scottish Government to introduce a new set of food security questions in the Family Resources Survey starting from April 2019. This means that we will, in future, be able to monitor the prevalence and severity of household food insecurity across the UK and for specific groups, to better understand the drivers of food insecurity and identify which groups are most at risk.

Q
Asked by Lord Bird
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Disadvantaged: Children and Young People
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, what assessment they have made of the report by Barnardo’s Overcoming Poverty of Hope, published on 8 July; and what steps they intend to take to improve how they (1) listen to, and (2) act upon, the concerns of younger generations.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 22 July 2019

We welcome the Overcoming Poverty of Hope report which provides valuable insight into young people’s views and concerns about their own future.

We are committed to providing support for young people so that everyone, no matter what their start is in life, is given the best chance of getting into work. The department has a variety of support for young people such as the Youth Obligation Support Programme which provides support tailored to the needs and ambitions of individual 18 to 21 year olds. We have been working with Barnardo’s to develop a pilot specifically for care leavers. The pilot offers enhanced work experience and a personal mentor to support the care leaver throughout the placement, building the skills and confidence needed to start a career.

Asked on: 08 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Pension Credit
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much funding they provided to charities that work with older people to support the take-up of Pension Credit in (1) 2015–16, (2) 2016–17, and (3) 2017–18.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 22 July 2019

The Government is committed to ensuring that older people receive the support they are entitled to. We work with a wide range of stakeholders, including charities to ensure that accurate information about benefits including Pension Credit is available in the places where people are most likely to go to seek information.

The DWP knows that one of the best ways to reach eligible claimants is through trusted stakeholder organisations working in the community and that is why we have developed and resourced the Pension Credit toolkit, as an on-line tool for agencies and welfare rights organisations to use in order to encourage Pension Credit take-up.

The toolkit contains resources for anyone working with pensioners and includes guides to Pension Credit. It also contains publicity material and guidance designed to help older people understand how they could get Pension Credit and help organisations support someone applying for Pension Credit as well as ideas for encouraging take-up. The toolkit also provides links to information about disability and carers benefits.

Stakeholders and potential claimants alike can use the Pension Credit calculator at gov.uk to check if they are likely to be eligible and get an estimate of what they may receive.

Most recently we have provided to relevant stakeholders a fact sheet about Pension Credit and the changes introduced on 15 May for mixed age couples to ensure they are able to communicate the most up-to-date information to potential claimants.

DWP staff in Pension Centres and Jobcentres including visiting officers are able to provide help and advice about entitlement to benefits, as are staff in Local Authorities who administer Housing Benefit.

Asked on: 03 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Social Security Benefits
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Baroness Buscombe on 25 June (HL Deb, col 1004), what sources they used to inform their statements that the UK (1) delivers the fourth most generous level of welfare support in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), (2) spends more on family benefits than any other country in the G7, and (3) spends the second highest amount on family benefits as a share of GDP, in the OECD.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 17 July 2019

(1) This statement was due to official error. We are the fourth most generous country according to the UN 2019 World Happiness Report. The UK spends £220bn on welfare each year, providing vital financial support for the most vulnerable in society.

(2) and (3) These two statements come from OECD 2015 data (https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?datasetcode=SOCX_AGG). 2015 data is used as it is the most recent full data set. Please note that OECD definitions do not always match UK definitions, but insure data is comparable across OECD countries.

Q
Asked by Lord Hylton
Asked on: 08 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Welfare State
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to create a new "safety net" to prevent people from becoming destitute; and what consideration they have given to re-establishing a national assistance board to assist in this endeavour.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 17 July 2019

This Government is committed to providing a strong safety-net for those who need it. We continue to spend over £95 billion a year on working age welfare benefits. We have a well-established system of hardship payments, benefit advances and budgeting loans for those who need extra support, and Jobcentre managers work closely with external partners to help vulnerable claimants. Our local government finance settlement means that over this year and next, councils will get over £10 billion in direct grants from central government to continue to offer a range of vital services to their local communities. We have no plans to re-establish a national assistance board.

Asked on: 01 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Pension Credit
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that those who are entitled to claim (1) pension credit, and (2) a TV licence from June 2020, but currently do not, take up those benefits.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 15 July 2019

In the 2015 funding settlement, the Government agreed with the BBC that responsibility for the concession would transfer to the BBC. The implementation of the licence fee and the concession from June 2020 is a matter for the BBC and TV Licensing, which are independent of Government.

However, we expect the BBC to put in place robust plans to support those who might be affected. The BBC has said it will write to all over 75 TV licence holders advising them of how the new policy will work and when they need to act.

Irrespective of this, the Government is committed to ensuring that older people receive the support they are entitled to and the DWP targets activity on engaging with people who may be eligible to benefits at pivotal stages, such as when they claim State Pension or report a change in their circumstances. The DWP uses a wide range of channels to communicate information about benefits to potential claimants; including information on gov.uk, in leaflets and by telephone. DWP staff in Pension Centres and Jobcentres including visiting officers are able to provide help and advice about entitlement to benefits, as are staff in Local Authorities who administer Housing Benefit.

Potential claimants can use the Pension Credit calculator to check if they are likely to be eligible and get an estimate of what they may receive. People wishing to claim Pension Credit can do so by calling 0800 99 1234.

One of the best ways to reach eligible claimants is through trusted stakeholder working in the community and we have developed the Pension Credit toolkit, as an on-line tool for agencies and welfare rights organisations to use in order to encourage Pension Credit take-up.

The toolkit contains resources for anyone working with pensioners and includes guides to Pension Credit. It also contains publicity material and guidance designed to help older people understand how they could get Pension Credit and help organisations support someone applying for Pension Credit as well as ideas for encouraging take-up. The toolkit also provides links to information about disability and carers benefits.

Most recently we have provided to relevant stakeholders a fact sheet about Pension Credit and the changes introduced on 15 May for mixed age couples to ensure that accurate information is available in the places where people are most likely to seek information.

Q
Asked on: 01 July 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Pension Credit
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much funding they provided to charities that work with older people to support the take-up of Pension Credit in (1) 2015–16,(2) 2016–17, and (3) 2017–18.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 15 July 2019

The Government is committed to ensuring that older people receive the support they are entitled to. We work with a wide range of stakeholders, including charities to ensure that accurate information about benefits including Pension Credit is available in the places where people are most likely to go to seek information.

The DWP knows that one of the best ways to reach eligible claimants is through trusted stakeholder organisations working in the community and that is why we have developed and resourced the Pension Credit on line toolkit, as an on-line tool for agencies and welfare rights organisations to use in order to encourage Pension Credit take-up.

The toolkit contains resources for anyone working with pensioners and includes guides to Pension Credit. It also contains publicity material and guidance designed to help older people understand how they could get Pension Credit and help organisations support someone applying for Pension Credit as well as ideas for encouraging take-up. The toolkit also provides links to information about disability and carers benefits.

Stakeholders and potential claimants alike can use the online Pension Credit calculator to check if they are likely to be eligible and get an estimate of what they may receive. Most recently we have provided to relevant stakeholders a fact sheet about Pension Credit and the changes introduced on 15 May for mixed age couples to ensure they are able to communicate the most up-to-date information to potential claimants.

DWP staff in Pension Centres and Jobcentres including visiting officers are able to provide help and advice about entitlement to benefits, as are staff in Local Authorities who administer Housing Benefit.

Q
Asked on: 27 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Television: Licensing
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that those who are entitled to claim (1) pension credit, and (2) a TV licence from June 2020, but currently do not, take up those benefits.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 11 July 2019

In the 2015 funding settlement, the Government agreed with the BBC that responsibility for the concession would transfer to the BBC. The implementation of the licence fee and the concession from June 2020 is a matter for the BBC and TV Licensing, which are independent of Government.

However, we expect the BBC to put in place robust plans to support those who might be affected. The BBC has said it will write to all over 75 TV licence holders advising them of how the new policy will work and when they need to act.

Irrespective of this, the Government is committed to ensuring that older people receive the support they are entitled to and the DWP targets activity on engaging with people who may be eligible to benefits at pivotal stages, such as when they claim State Pension or report a change in their circumstances. The DWP uses a wide range of channels to communicate information about benefits to potential claimants; including information on gov.uk, in leaflets and by telephone. DWP staff in Pension Centres and Jobcentres including visiting officers are able to provide help and advice about entitlement to benefits, as are staff in Local Authorities who administer Housing Benefit.

Potential claimants can use the Pension Credit calculator to check if they are likely to be eligible and get an estimate of what they may receive. People wishing to claim Pension Credit can do so by calling 0800 99 1234.

One of the best ways to reach eligible claimants is through trusted stakeholder working in the community and we have developed the Pension Credit toolkit, as an on-line tool for agencies and welfare rights organisations to use in order to encourage Pension Credit take-up.

The toolkit contains resources for anyone working with pensioners and includes guides to Pension Credit. It also contains publicity material and guidance designed to help older people understand how they could get Pension Credit and help organisations support someone applying for Pension Credit as well as ideas for encouraging take-up. The toolkit also provides links to information about disability and carers benefits.

Most recently we have provided to relevant stakeholders a fact sheet about Pension Credit and the changes introduced on 15 May for mixed age couples to ensure that accurate information is available in the places where people are most likely to seek information.

Q
Asked on: 26 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Poverty: Children
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the reply by Baroness Buscombe on 17 June (HL Deb, col 653), why child poverty has been “rising almost entirely in working families”.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 10 July 2019

The Institute for Fiscal Studies published “Living Standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2019” on 19 June which acknowledged that the rise of in-work relative poverty is a complex issue with no easy answer. They cited a number of reasons, including that there are more people in work overall and far fewer workless households, for example, there are 667,000 fewer children in workless households compared with 2010. Furthermore, far fewer pensioners are poor than ever before, primarily driven by increased government spending on pension benefits. This has raised the relative poverty line resulting in more ‘in work’ households falling below the line in recent years than they would have done without these increases in pensioner incomes.

The IFS estimated that the remaining third of the increase is due to two main factors: that earnings have risen less quickly towards the bottom of the distribution than the top and that housing costs have risen faster for poorer households than richer ones.

We know that there is more to do to support working people. The Chancellor has set out the Government’s ambition to end low pay across the UK. The National Living Wage, rose to £8.21 an hour in April 2019 and is expected to benefit over 1.7m people. The government is working to ease issues around high housing costs by delivering over 1.3 million extra homes in England since 2010. The Government is now on track to raise housing supply to 300,000 per year on average by the mid-2020s. Over £44 billion of new financial support will be available for housing over the next five years.

Asked on: 26 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Buscombe on 25 June (HL16417), why the draft Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019, which were laid on 14 January, have not yet been tabled for debate and affirmative resolution in the House of Lords.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 09 July 2019

On 3 May 2019, the High Court handed down a judgment in relation to Universal Credit and the Severe Disability Premium (SDP). The judgment quashed the SDP related parts of the draft Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019. The Department is currently considering the options open to us and will respond in due course.

Q
Asked on: 26 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Poverty: Children
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the reply by Baroness Buscombe on 17 June (HL Deb, col 653), how many children living in absolute poverty in a household where the adult is (1) self-employed, and (2) in part-time employment, will benefit from the “£1.7 billion a year cash boost to our welfare system”; and by how much the family income will increase per annum in those households.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 09 July 2019

The change announced in the Budget will enable working parents and people with disabilities on Universal Credit to keep £630 extra income each year or around £12 per week.

HM Treasury’s distributional analysis, published alongside Budget 2018, shows the cumulative effect on household incomes of policies on welfare, tax, and public service spending measures. Because different measures often interact with each other, this cumulative assessment provides the best representation of the overall intended policy effect. This shows that the Government’s decisions have benefited households throughout the income distribution, with the poorest households gaining the most as a percentage of net income.

DWP has not conducted research into the impact of Universal Credit on household poverty. Estimates of the number and proportion of individuals in relative low income are published in the National Statistics Households Below Average Income (HBAI) series, available on gov.uk.

The latest annual publication was on 2017/18 data and we will continue to monitor relative low income rates in future publications. We are committed to building a country that works for everyone – not just the privileged few. We know that work is the best route out of poverty and Universal Credit is designed to strengthen incentives for parents to move into and progress in work. The impact of Universal Credit cannot be considered in isolation; it is a key component of a broader strategy to move Britain to a higher wage, lower welfare, lower tax society.

Grouped Questions: HL16710
Q
Asked on: 26 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Poverty: Children
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the reply by Baroness Buscombe on 17 June (HL Deb, col 653), how many children live in the “2.4 million households” who will “keep more of what they earn”.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 09 July 2019

The Department estimates there will be around 4.1m children in households in Great Britain that will gain from the change in work allowances by 2023/24.

Q
Asked on: 26 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Universal Credit
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the reply by Baroness Buscombe on 17 June (HL Deb, col 653), how much each household will gain per week from the £1.7 billion a year cash boost announced in the Budget.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 09 July 2019

The change announced in the Budget will enable working parents and people with disabilities on Universal Credit to keep £630 extra income each year or around £12 per week.

HM Treasury’s distributional analysis, published alongside Budget 2018, shows the cumulative effect on household incomes of policies on welfare, tax, and public service spending measures. Because different measures often interact with each other, this cumulative assessment provides the best representation of the overall intended policy effect. This shows that the Government’s decisions have benefited households throughout the income distribution, with the poorest households gaining the most as a percentage of net income.

DWP has not conducted research into the impact of Universal Credit on household poverty. Estimates of the number and proportion of individuals in relative low income are published in the National Statistics Households Below Average Income (HBAI) series, available on gov.uk.

The latest annual publication was on 2017/18 data and we will continue to monitor relative low income rates in future publications. We are committed to building a country that works for everyone – not just the privileged few. We know that work is the best route out of poverty and Universal Credit is designed to strengthen incentives for parents to move into and progress in work. The impact of Universal Credit cannot be considered in isolation; it is a key component of a broader strategy to move Britain to a higher wage, lower welfare, lower tax society.

Grouped Questions: HL16708
Asked on: 24 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Poverty
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Baroness Buscombe on 19 June (HL Deb, col 771), on what occasions the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights was "not keen to engage" with UK officials.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 08 July 2019

Department for Work and Pensions officials liaised extensively with the Special Rapporteur’s office over the arrangements for his visit to the UK last November. From the outset, his staff were clear that Professor Alston’s priority was to secure meetings with UK Government Ministers.

DWP proposed meetings and round tables with senior officials across the relevant departments so that topics, including health, housing and welfare benefits, could be explored in more detail. The scope and time available for these meetings was significantly curtailed as the Special Rapporteur’s office asked that meetings with parliamentary committees and other public bodies, for example the National Audit Office, be prioritised over meetings with UK Government officials.

Asked on: 24 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Social Security Benefits
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the current (1) weekly rates of Child Benefit, and (2) monthly rates of Universal Credit standard allowances and child elements; and what would each of those rates have been had they not been frozen for the past four years.
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 08 July 2019

Work is the best route out of poverty and for people to be more financially independent. Our welfare reforms are part of the Government’s commitment to incentivise moves into work and progression in work, and to better support working families.

The Department completed an Impact Assessment titled ‘Welfare Reform and Work Bill: Impact Assessment of the Benefit rate freeze’ in July 2015 which included information surrounding the policy objectives and the intended effects. Benefits for the additional costs of disability, and for carers, are exempt from the benefit freeze.

Currently the weekly rate of Child Benefit is £20.70 for the eldest or only child and £13.70 for additional children.

Universal Credit is made up of a standard allowance and any additional amounts which apply to claimants with certain circumstances, such as dependent children. The current monthly rates for the requested Universal Credit components are shown in the tables below.

Standard allowance

Single and under 25

£251.77

Single and over 25

£317.82

In a couple and both under 25

£395.20 (for both)

In a couple and either are 25 or over

£498.89 (for both)

Child components

For the first child

£277.08 (born before 6 April 2017) £231.67 (born on or after 6 April 2017)

For the second or other eligible children

£231.67

For a disabled or severely disabled child

£126.11 or £392.08

We are unable to determine what each of the rates would have been had they not been subject to a freeze, as the legacy system is not comparable with Universal Credit.

Q
Asked on: 24 June 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Poverty
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answer by Baroness Buscombe on 17 June (HL Deb, col 652), what is their definition of "absolute poverty".
A
Answered by: Baroness Buscombe
Answered on: 08 July 2019

Government definitions of low income households are set out in the annual National Statistics publication Households Below Average Income. Someone is in absolute low income (commonly referred to as ‘absolute poverty’), if they are in a household that received less than 60% of the UK median equivalised net household income in 2010/11, adjusted for inflation.

Absolute low income is measured both before and after housing costs. Housing costs include; rent (gross of housing benefit); water rates, community water charges and council water charges; mortgage interest payments; structural insurance premiums (for owner occupiers); ground rent and service charges.

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