On 9th March 2017 Labour Peer Baroness Sherlock asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the impact on claimants of the time taken between applying for Universal Credit and receiving payments.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, in the last three months I have visited a large number of food banks across the diocese of Oxford in seemingly affluent communities, building on my experience of food banks in the diocese of Sheffield. All have underlined to me that the most common reason why people access food banks is delay in accessing welfare payments. It is clear from the Government’s figures that too few people are aware of, or receiving, the emergency payments intended for them. Will the Minister please outline what steps the Government are taking to improve communication of and access to short-term benefit advances for existing benefits and to ensure that lessons learned from this are applied to the operation of universal credit.
Lord Henley: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right to draw attention to the problems some people have in knowing how the system works. He will find that how work coaches explain the administration of universal credit to people coming to them is completely different from how it used to operate. I recommend that the right reverend Prelate takes an opportunity to visit one of his local jobcentres to see how it works in practice. He might find that things have moved on a great deal since, say, his time in the diocese of Sheffield. If he wishes to take up my offer I will be more than happy to make the arrangements.