Written statements

Government Ministers and a small number of other Members of the two Houses can make a written statement to one or both Houses.

Written statements are published below shortly after receipt in Parliament. They also reproduced in the next edition of the Daily Report and of Hansard in the relevant House.

Written statements made before 17 November 2014 were published only in Hansard:

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Written Statement Indentifying Number – Every written statement in the House of Commons and House of Lords has a WSID per parliamentary session.
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Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 18 July 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Employment and Support Allowance

On 15 March I provided the House with a statement setting out how the work my Department was undertaking to correct underpayments that occurred when converting Incapacity Benefit claims to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) between 2011 and 2014 was progressing. I wanted to take this opportunity to provide the House with a further update.

In March I explained that my Department would resource this exercise with 400 staff to make sure we could review cases at pace. This work is now underway with staff reviewing cases, contacting claimants and correcting claims; so far we have paid out over £40 million in arrears.

The Department has analysed the relationship between “official error” and section 27 of the Social Security Act 1998 in regulating how and to what extent arrears can be paid. As a result of the conclusions of this analysis, we will now be paying arrears to those affected back to their date of conversion to ESA.

My Department will be contacting all those identified as potentially affected as planned. Once an individual is contacted, and the relevant information gathered, they can expect to receive appropriate payment within 12 weeks. I can also confirm that once contacted, individuals will be provided with a dedicated free phone number on which they can make contact with the Department.

Where we have already corrected cases and paid arrears from 21 October 2014 we will review the case again and pay any additional arrears that are due prior to that date.

I hope this will help Members to provide reassurance, to their constituents who think they may have been affected, that they will receive all the money they are entitled to.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS846
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 15 June 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Personal Independence Payments

Last week I came to the House to answer an Urgent Question regarding two PIP appeals to the Upper Tribunal (known as AN and JM) that I had withdrawn. I was unable to comment on a related case that was pending an appeal to the Court of Appeal (known as LB) as it concerned ongoing litigation, and I committed to updating the House at the earliest opportunity on this case when I was able to do so.

I carefully considered this appeal and have decided to not continue with it in order to provide certainty to the claimant involved. The March 2017 amending regulations (Regulations 2(2) and (3) of the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017) clarified the Department’s position on PIP Daily Living Activity 3 (managing a therapy or monitoring a health condition) and therefore further litigation is unnecessary.

On Wednesday 13th June I received confirmation that the Court of Appeal had consented to my Department’s application to withdraw the appeal in the LB case, and I am pleased to confirm the claimant will be receiving arrears of benefit as soon as possible.

My Department has now begun work to apply the law as stated by the Upper Tribunal in LB and will take all steps necessary to implement it in the best interests of all affected claimants for the period 28 November 2016 (the date of the Upper Tribunal decision in LB) to 16 March 2017 (when the amendment to activity 3 came into force). This work will include a review exercise later in the year. We expect that around 1,000 claimants will be affected.

I am absolutely committed to ensuring that disabled people and people with health conditions get the right support they need. PIP is a modern, personalised benefit that assesses claimants on needs, not conditions. It continues to be a better benefit than its predecessor DLA for claimants with chronic conditions. This Government is spending over £50bn a year supporting people with disabilities and health conditions – this is higher than ever before.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS743
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 07 June 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Universal Credit

Today we publish a summary of the Universal Credit Full Business Case, signed off by HM Treasury, which shows that when fully rolled out, Universal Credit is forecast to incentivise 200,000 more people to take employment than would have under the previous system and deliver £8bn of benefits to the UK economy per year.

Universal Credit is the biggest change of the welfare system since it was created. It is a modern, flexible, personalised benefit reflecting the rapidly changing world of work.

It has brought together the six main benefits, including tax credits, providing support in and out of work and assisting career progression. The Government has used a ‘test and learn’ approach as it rolls out across the country.

The Government has already made a commitment that anyone who is moved to Universal Credit without a change of circumstance will not lose out in cash terms. Transitional protection will be provided to eligible claimants to safeguard their existing benefit entitlement until their circumstances change.

Today I am announcing four additions to these rules to ensure that Universal Credit supports people into work, protects vulnerable claimants and is targeted at those who need it.

In order to support the transition for those individuals who live alone with substantial care needs and receive the Severe Disability Premium, we are changing the system so that these claimants will not be moved to Universal Credit until they qualify for transitional protection. In addition, we will provide both an on-going payment to claimants who have already lost this Premium as a consequence of moving to Universal Credit and an additional payment to cover the period since they moved.

Second, we will increase the incentives for parents to take short-term or temporary work and increase their earnings by ensuring that the award of, or increase in, support for childcare costs will not erode transitional protection.

Third, we propose to re-award claimants’ transitional protection that has ceased owing to short-term increases in earnings within an assessment period, if they make a new claim to UC within three months of when they received the additional payment.

Finally, individuals with capital in excess of £16,000 are not eligible for Universal Credit. However, for Tax Credit claimants in this situation, we will now disregard any capital in excess of £16,000 for 12 months from the point at which they are moved to Universal Credit. Normal benefit rules apply after this time in order to strike the right balance between keeping incentives for saving and asking people to support themselves.

The process of migrating claimants on legacy benefits will begin in July 2019 as previously announced. In order to make the changes to the system it will be necessary to extend the completion of UC to March 2023. As throughout UC roll out, we will keep the exact timetable under review to do what is sensible from a delivery and fiscal perspective.

These changes will form part of the Universal Credit Managed Migration and Transitional Protection Regulations which we intend to bring forward in the Autumn.

This Government is committed to delivering a welfare system that supports claimants and is fair to taxpayers.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS720
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 27 April 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Extending support in Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit

I can today announce that we will extend the existing support within Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit for children who would otherwise be likely to be in local authority care, including children who are adopted or looked after by non-parental carers, also known as ‘kinship’ carers.

The policy to provide support in Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit for a maximum of two children ensures parents in receipt of benefits face the same choices as those supporting themselves solely through work.

We recognise that not all parents are able to make the same choices about the number of children in their family. That is why exceptions have been put in place to protect certain groups. Exceptions apply to third and subsequent children who are part of a multiple birth; adopted or in non-parental caring arrangements when they would otherwise be in local authority care; or likely to have been born as a result of non-consensual conception.

For children who would otherwise be likely to be in local authority care, these exceptions will be applied regardless of the order in which they joined a household.

The Government recognises the immense value of the care that non-parental carers and adoptive parents provide. The role that those parents and carers play in helping to bring children up who could otherwise find themselves in local authority care is vital. It is for this reason that we are ensuring that they are supported by enabling them to access benefit entitlement in the same way as birth parents.

Since becoming Secretary of State, I have been reviewing this issue carefully to ensure that the exceptions, as they apply to non-parental carers and adoptive parents, provide the right level of support.

Last week, I welcomed the High Court ruling that the policy to provide support for a maximum of two children was lawful overall. I have considered the part of the judgment that pertains to non-parental carers alongside internal reviews that the Department for Work and Pensions carried out in parallel to the legal case, and I consider that it is right that this change should be extended, not just to those in non-parental caring arrangements, but also to include children who are adopted who would otherwise be in local authority care.

This change will reassure those non-parental carers and parents who adopt and are eligible for this child support, that it will be available to them regardless of the order in which their children joined the household.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS634
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 29 March 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Welfare Reform

This Government is committed to providing young people with the support they need to get started with their working lives. We do this through providing financial support when it is needed, and support to either ‘earn or learn’ – delivered through the simplified Universal Credit (UC) benefits system. In line with this aim, I am today announcing that the Government will amend regulations so that all 18-21 year olds will be entitled to claim support for housing costs in UC.

Currently, 18-21 year olds who make a new claim to UC in UC Full Service areas need to meet certain requirements in order to receive housing support. The change I am announcing today means that young people on benefits will be assured that if they secure a tenancy, they will have support towards their housing costs in the normal way.

Young people in return will have a Youth Obligation – an intensive package of labour market support for 18-21 year-olds looking to get into work. We are committed to providing targeted support for young people so that everyone, no matter what their start in life, is given the very best chance of getting into work.

This decision ensures that there are no unintended barriers to young people accessing housing on the basis of their age alone and getting into work, and is in line with the Government’s launch of the Homelessness Reduction Act and our commitment to eradicating rough sleeping by 2027.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS590
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 20 March 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Access To Work Scheme

In March 2015, as part of a package of improvements to Access to Work, the former Minster for Disabled People, Health and Work and the right honourable member for Forest of Dean announced the introduction of an annual limit on the amount of an Access to Work grant of 1.5 times average salaries in order to encourage better use of public funds and to enable Access to Work to support more people – particularly traditionally under-represented groups. The cap has been in place since October 2015 but a period of transitional protection was granted to enable those who were spending above the level of the cap on introduction time to adjust to the new limits.

During this transitional period for people to adjust to the need to source their support within a limit, we have seen considerable progress. The average spend amongst the remaining transitionally-protected customers has fallen from around £57,000 each to around £45,000 each. This suggests that it is achieving the intended incentive effects on individuals and employers to make best use of funding as well as freeing over £2m per year, to support growing numbers of people benefitting from the scheme, alongside the extra resources provided in the Spending Review. I am therefore persuaded that the principle of the cap is sound, balancing the need to provide support to the largest number of people, and at a significant level for some, with the need to make the best use of public funds.

At the same time, the Government have always said that we would also use this time to monitor the impact of the cap on individuals and work with customers and other stakeholders to see if any further practical mitigations could be applied to those whose needs still remain above the cap. This includes emphasising the duties that employers have to play their part and make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010. At the same time it was agreed that we would lead a review of communication support for Deaf people, which we published last year.

I am therefore pleased to announce that as a result of this engagement – particularly with the UK Council on Deafness (because the majority of capped customers are Deaf), but also with others groups and individuals that as of April 2018, the cap will not rise to £43,100 in line with 1.5 times average earnings. Instead it will rise to £57,200, double average earnings, and will be uprated annually on that basis. This means that considerably fewer British Sign Language users now remain affected by the cap. I believe it is important to retain this link to average earnings so that high-value awards, which are overwhelmingly used to purchase human support, retain their purchasing power over time.

Alongside this change, existing capped customers will, where applicable, have their needs considered against this new limit when their awards are due for their annual review.

As we continually seek to improve Access to Work, which last year approved provision for 8% more people than in 2015/16 – including 13% more people who were Deaf or had hearing loss - we will introduce the following measures:

  • extra support to customers with high-value awards via automatic workplace assessments promoting available technology and reasonable adjustments and voluntary cost-share from employers as well as signposting to advice and guidance provided by third parties;
  • working with stakeholders to co-produce guidance and share best practice as well as continued monitoring of the impacts on the cap;
  • discretion in exceptional cases of multiple disability, to consider award limits averaged over a longer period – for example where a customer’s on-going need for a support worker may be below the cap but when coupled with a periodic need for say a wheelchair, would exceed the cap in that year;
  • introduction of managed personal budgets to enable greater choice and control for customers in the way grants are spent;
  • taking applications 12 weeks ahead of a job start date rather than the current six weeks to allow more time for support to be agreed and put in place;
  • continuing to invest in our digital improvements such as developing the facility to submit invoices online;
  • allowing more flexibility in how people can use Access to Work to support short periods of work experience where there is a likelihood of a paid job in the near future; and
  • encouraging uptake of technological solutions that can both reduce costs and promote independence, we will allow risk free trials of technological solutions so that customers can revert to their old award if they wish, and also introduce a “Tech Fund” that will mean the mandatory cost-sharing contributions from employers for such items are waived where their use will save the taxpayer money.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS543
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 19 March 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Private Pensions

Today the Government is publishing a White Paper “Protecting Defined Benefit Pension Schemes” which sets out our proposals to improve confidence in defined benefit pensions. It builds on last year’s Green Paper, “Security and Sustainability in Defined Benefit Pension Schemes”.

As we said when we published the Green Paper, defined benefit schemes are an important pillar of the UK economy. Around £1.5 trillion is invested by about 5,500 schemes. More importantly, these pensions are a key part of many people’s retirement income. There are 10.5 million members in the UK with a defined benefit pension: it is crucially important that the system delivers the retirement income they have saved for over many years of hard work.

We know that the vast majority of employers with these schemes want to do the right thing by their employees. Our 2017 Green Paper examined the evidence around defined benefit scheme affordability, and concluded that the majority of employers can and do fund their schemes appropriately. The responses to the Green Paper supported this. However, to help trustees and employers work even more effectively towards a long-term goal, we are introducing changes to scheme funding. Where employers want the best for their employees, we want to ensure that the system supports this.

However, it is clear that not all employers want to act fairly. At the heart of the White Paper is a strong message for employers tempted to act in a way that is detrimental to their pension scheme. We will not tolerate such behaviour, and will come down heavily on attempts by employers to avoid their responsibilities. We are supporting the Pensions Regulator to be a clearer, quicker and tougher organisation by giving it new and improved powers to gather information and require employer co-operation. Where there is evidence of unscrupulous behaviour, we are introducing measures including a punitive fines regime and, in the most serious cases, a new criminal offence for those who deliberately and recklessly put their pension scheme at risk.

Finally, we are consulting on the legislative framework and accreditation regime for consolidation, providing industry with the opportunity to innovate whilst ensuring there are robust safeguards in place to protect members’ benefits. This will be the first step in enabling schemes greater opportunities to realise the benefits of scale achieved through consolidation, and will benefit both members and employers.

The White Paper relates only to private sector defined benefit schemes and is not concerned with other types of pension provision, such as public service pension schemes or defined contribution schemes. A response to our consultation on the future of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) is included in chapter four of the White Paper.

Defined benefit pensions are a subject of great importance to many people, representing their hopes for the future. We are determined to ensure that these hopes are protected. This White Paper is a key step towards a more secure future for members of these schemes.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS538
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 15 March 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Employment and Support Allowance

On 14 December 2017 my predecessor provided a statement to the House on how the Department will be undertaking work to correct underpayments that may have occurred as a result of how a proportion of Incapacity Benefit claims were transitioned to Employment and Support Allowance between 2011 and 2014. I wanted to take this opportunity to update the House on how this work is progressing.

My Department will be reviewing close to 300,000 cases, of which just under a quarter have been underpaid. We have begun contacting individuals and making payments. We are actively recruiting staff and have scaled up the team undertaking the work from 10 to 50 in December last year, which will grow further to 400 from April, allowing us to deal with the situation at pace.

I know many Members will want to provide reassurance to their constituents who think they may have been affected. I can assure the House that my Department will be contacting all those identified as potentially impacted. We have been engaging with external organisations that often provide support and advice to our claimants, so that they too can be confident that we have a robust process in place, and can provide individual advice should they be contacted.

Today I can confirm that, based on departmental analysis, we will be prioritising any individuals whom we know from our systems to be terminally ill. Thereafter we will work through the cases identified as most likely to have been underpaid according to our systems. We have also undertaken an Equality Analysis to support this prioritisation approach.

Once an individual is contacted, and the relevant information gathered, they can expect to receive appropriate payment within 12 weeks. I can also confirm that once contacted, individuals will be provided with a dedicated free phone number on which they can make contact with the Department.

Like my predecessor, I am committed to ensuring that all cases are reviewed and paid by April 2019.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS530
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 08 March 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Universal Credit Update

On 8 February 2018, the Work and Pensions Select Committee, published a report into the Universal Credit Project Assessment Reviews. From this publication, the House will be aware that my Department has been involved in a request under the Freedom of Information Act, for the release of the Project Assessment Reviews conducted between March 2012 and October 2015 on the Universal Credit Programme.

Project Assessment Reviews are an assurance tool used to assess major projects and programmes. The reviews are conducted by project professionals and subject matter experts drawn from across the public and private sector. The effectiveness of the reviews relies on confidentiality: information within the reports is non-attributable to encourage candour and a frank exchange of views. The reports act as advice to the Senior Responsible Owner on the delivery aspects of their programme – they are not advice to Ministers. They are intended to give the Senior Responsible Owner a project delivery perspective on their programme, independent of the programme management function. They represent perspectives for the Senior Responsible Owner to consider and not absolute truths. The Senior Responsible Owner, not the review team, is accountable to Parliament.

It should be noted that the reviews I will place in the Library are historic, conducted between March 2012 and October 2015. Come 2018, the Universal Credit Programme is in a very different place since those reports were written. Universal Credit is in every Jobcentre and we are rolling it out safely and securely to all categories of claimant. We are focussing on the continued safe delivery of Universal Credit, so people continue to be helped to improve their lives.

In recognition of the confidential nature of these reports, the Work and Pensions Select Committee viewed the full set of Project Assessment Reviews up to 2017 and published a report on 8 February 2018. The Work and Pensions Select Committee agrees that the historic issues have now been addressed and ‘substantial achievements’ have been delivered since 2013. In the Committee’s report, they commended the Department for running the Universal Credit programme ‘more professionally and efficiently with a collective sense of purpose’.

The Universal Credit Programme does not lack scrutiny as the ongoing Work and Pension’s Select Committee inquiries demonstrate. Given the Select Committee has seen the reports subject to the Freedom of Information challenge, and commented upon them publically I can see no point in continuing to argue that case. Accordingly my officials will be writing to the Information Commissioner and to the First Tier Tribunal to advise them of my decision to release copies of the requested Project Assessment Review reports to the requestor.

With regard to future reports, I emphasise that the steps I have decided to take today, to disclose the material subject to proceedings, are exceptional. I remain of the view, that it is critical to the effectiveness of the Infrastructure & Projects Authority assurance framework for participants to be confident that their comments will be non-attributable and that review reports will be treated as confidential.

I accept that this House and the wider public has significant interest in government major projects. I support the principle of transparency and the Universal Credit Programme regularly publishes independent research and analysis into the effectiveness of Universal Credit. I believe that there are better ways of addressing this concern, rather than undermining the mechanism that provides Senior Responsible Owners with an independent external perspective on the programmes they are responsible to Parliament for.

Universal Credit is a flexible benefit, which has simplified the welfare system and ensures that people are always better off in work. We know that the legacy system trapped people in benefit dependency. We needed a new approach to reflect the 21st Century work environment. The evidence shows Universal Credit is working, with people getting into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

I am sure this House joins me in recognising the great progress we have made since 2010, with 3 million more people in work and unemployment at a near record low. Universal Credit builds on this success, delivering welfare reform that works for everyone.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS507
WS
Department for Work and Pensions
Made on: 19 January 2018
Made by: Esther McVey (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Commons

Welfare

Supporting people with mental health conditions is a top priority for this Government. We are committed to ensuring our welfare system is a strong safety net for those who need it. That is why we spend over £50 billion a year supporting people with disabilities and health conditions –more than ever before.

Disabled people and people with health conditions, including mental health conditions, deserve the very best support. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaced the out-dated Disability Living Allowance (DLA) system, with 66% of PIP recipients with mental health conditions receiving the higher rate of the benefit, compared to just 22% under DLA.

On 21st December 2017 the High Court published its judgment in the judicial review challenge against regulation 2(4) of the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 S.I. 2017/194. The Regulations reversed the effect of the Upper Tribunal judgment in MH.

I wish to inform the House that, after careful consideration, I have decided not to appeal the High Court judgment. My Department will now take all steps necessary to implement the judgment in MH in the best interests of our claimants, working closely with disabled people and key stakeholders over the coming months.

Although I and my Department accept the High Court’s judgment, we do not agree with some of the detail contained therein. Our intention has always been to deliver the policy intent of the original regulations, as approved by Parliament, and to provide the best support to claimants with mental health conditions.

The Department for Work and Pensions will now undertake an exercise to go through all affected cases in receipt of PIP and all decisions made following the judgment in MH to identify anyone who may be entitled to more as a result of the judgment. We will then write to those individuals affected, and all payments will be backdated to the effective date in each individual claim.

I hope that by making this statement it is clear that the Government is committed to improving the lives of people with mental health conditions.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS407
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