Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 18th December 2023

(3 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Paul Maynard Portrait Paul Maynard
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I know that Mrs Garrard will not be the only older resident in the country concerned about energy prices this winter. I just mentioned the increased cost of living payment that we are adding to the winter fuel payment. In addition, we have increased the warm home discount to up to £150, and there is a whole suite of cold weather payments that can be made in the event of seven days of sustained cold weather. We have a wide range of measures to help support people when faced with cold weather and high energy costs.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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10. What steps his Department is taking to help ensure that people are financially incentivised to work.

Jo Churchill Portrait The Minister for Employment (Jo Churchill)
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Universal credit is specifically designed to make work pay, with strong financial incentives such as the 55% earnings taper and work allowances. Working families can also get support with up to 85% of their childcare costs. The maximum amounts have been increased by 47%, up to £950 for one child and £1,630 for two or more children. Additionally, the rise in the national living wage from April means that some 2.7 million workers will be £1,800 better off, on average, as well as benefiting from national insurance cuts.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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I thank the Minister for her answer and welcome her back to the Front Bench. Basildon jobcentre recently hosted two health and social care recruitment events, which resulted in the filling of 20 vacancies, helping to reduce local unemployment. Does the Minister agree that work is the best route out of poverty and that it is this Government who are helping more people into work and aligning vacancies with employees?

Jo Churchill Portrait Jo Churchill
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First, I would just like to take a minute to thank Basildon jobcentre, and indeed all jobcentres, for the work they do, from Chorley to the west country and back to the east. Targeted recruitment fairs are a great way to work with specific sectors that have shortages, including health and social care, construction, manufacturing, and hospitality. My hon. Friend is right that getting more people into work is a top priority for the Department and across Government. We know that it is good for wellbeing, both personally and financially, and those in work are on average £6,000 better off a year.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 13th November 2023

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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The hon. Lady’s question is best directed to the Department for Business and Trade rather than DWP, as it relates to employment legislation and regulation. However, I am pleased to tell her that we have our 50PLUS champions, work champions in our jobcentres, the Midlife MOT and many other measures that are there to help exactly the people she describes.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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2. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of AI on the functioning of the welfare system.

Mel Stride Portrait The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mel Stride)
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We have a number of projects that use artificial intelligence within the Department to drive performance, efficiency and the service we provide to our customers. One important point to bear in mind is that we never replace a human when it comes to judgments relating to a claim or an appeal.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what assessment he has made of the potential merits of the use of AI in fraud protection? How will his Department ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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Let me take the second of my hon. Friend’s points first. As I have outlined, there is always human intervention when it is appropriate. None the less, he is quite right to raise the issue of fraud and error. We have seen a reduction in the Department over the past year of some 10% across the benefit system, and much of that has been driven by machine learning and data analytics.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 19th June 2023

(10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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16. What proportion of the population is economically inactive.

Mel Stride Portrait The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mel Stride)
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The latest data from the Office for National Statistics indicates that some 21% of the working-age population are economically inactive.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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As my right hon. Friend will be aware, the staff at Basildon Jobcentre Plus are doing incredible work to help people back into work. That has led to a local inactivity rate that is 12.6% below the UK average. Events such as its large employer-unemployed connection event, bringing together organisations with hundreds of jobseekers, are leading to really meaningful job opportunities. Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what else the Government are doing to get people off out-of-work benefits?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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May I first commend my hon. Friend for all the good work he is doing locally? The 12.6% figure for economic inactivity is extremely low and is a great tribute to the work he has just referred to. Other things we are doing include: the provision of job interventions for over-50s who have retired early; the childcare provision I referred to for parents with childcare duties; and a great deal of work on how we better facilitate getting the long-term sick and disabled back into the labour market.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 6th June 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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There clearly is a plan. That is why there are actually more people on payroll than prior to the pandemic. I am very conscious of the challenges for the self-employed, and also that some people have currently chosen to leave the labour market. That is what we are working on across Government, as well as with the activity on childcare. We will continue to make sure that it is in everybody’s interests to work, because they will be better off in work than not working, unless they cannot work.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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T3. I congratulate the Minister on his campaign to increase the uptake of pension credit, which is a vital way of ensuring that our most vulnerable pensioner households get everything they are entitled to. Although more than 2,000 people in my constituency are already claiming pension credit, following recent announcements on cost of living support, where does my hon. Friend suggest that people look to check whether they are getting everything they are entitled to?

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Guy Opperman)
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Obviously, there is the Government site—gov.uk—and the phone number 0800 99 1234. More particularly, I today met Citizens Advice, Age UK and various other pensioner charities that would be very keen to assist on an ongoing basis. I must very strongly recommend my hon. Friend to get behind the pension credit awareness day, which takes place on Wednesday 15 June. Obviously his local authority, Essex County Council, has a role to play, as do all local authorities, because it has the data that can identify specific individuals who could apply for but do not have pension credit.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 21st March 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I wish the hon. Gentleman a swift recovery from the trip or fall that caused his injury.

It is definitely the case that pensioner poverty is declining. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman’s statistic is manifestly wrong on that: pensioner poverty is down in relation to 2009-10. Of course, there are conversations with the Chancellor, but it is absolutely the case that state pension has increased year on year on year, and we have never paid a higher state pension than we presently do.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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5. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to support people to upskill and change career paths.

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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We have introduced Department for Work and Pensions Train and Progress to address our claimants’ skills needs. Working across Government, we have been able to extend the length of time during which universal credit claimants can undertake full-time training, including skills boot camps in England, to up to 16 weeks. I am also pleased about the role that kickstart has played in helping more than 152,000 young people to gain vital new skills and work experience to help them in their future careers.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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Ensuring that people have relevant skills is essential to helping them stay in work throughout their working lives. What opportunities are available to my constituents through jobcentres to access training to ensure they can apply for a wider range of opportunities in south Essex?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank my hon. Friend for the chance to highlight our jobcentre teams in Basildon and east Thurrock, who are working closely with partners to provide a wide range of support for local jobseekers, including with South Essex College, which has delivered a sector-based work academy programme—SWAP—for candidates to help them prepare to go into new roles in healthcare, logistics and administrative jobs with Essex Police.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 7th February 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chloe Smith Portrait Chloe Smith
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I am rather more interested in the hon. Gentleman’s constituent Ann than in party political game playing. I sincerely hope that his constituent Ann will be able to benefit from the £9 billion package that the Government have laid out, which comes on top of £12 billion and is targeted at the most vulnerable. Meanwhile, we are spending record amounts on health and disability benefits: £59 billion this year.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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I recently visited Basildon jobcentre and heard how it is bringing employers in to engage with work coaches and jobseekers. Does my hon. Friend welcome that new initiative, which helps to break the stereotypical view of those who use jobcentres to find work?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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As a result of the pandemic, many people who never expected to need help have worked with the DWP, as we have heard. Many Conservative Members have seen just what a change that has meant for people. Again, I invite Opposition Front Benchers to actually go down and see what is happening in local communities.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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The hon. Member will be aware that the pension has gone up by more than £2,000 in cash terms since 2010. There will be a double lock this coming year, subject to the will of Parliament, and there is also the enhanced take-up of pension credit, which I urge her to ensure her constituents apply for.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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T7. Many sectors, as we have heard, are struggling to get the staff they need, such as social care, hospitality, janitorial services, haulage and logistics. Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what further steps she is taking to enable jobseekers to find jobs, and businesses to find the staff they depend on to remain prosperous in my constituency?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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The DWP helps fill vacancies directly with work coach support through our plan for jobs programmes, including via the sector-based work academy programmes, and kickstart. We have doubled the number of our work coaches, particularly to support sectors with shortages, and we have a virtual job help platform with job search advice, a showcase of sectors and signposts directly to those vacancies, including in HGVs and logistics.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 14th September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking with employers to help ensure as many young people as possible benefit from the Kickstart scheme.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking with employers to help ensure as many young people as possible benefit from the Kickstart scheme.

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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My Department is working closely across Government to encourage all employers, big and small, to apply for the kickstart scheme. I urge all colleagues to work with their local jobcentre networks to help us to deliver this.

--- Later in debate ---
Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I am delighted with the interest in the kickstart scheme across the country, including in rural areas, and including smaller companies in that is key. We want applicants from across the country to benefit by bidding for those placements , perhaps via an intermediary or gateway organisation. Small employers, whether rural or not, will have the key support they need from that intermediary, and that will help to create high-quality roles and provide additional support, so that all our young people get the most out of this placement.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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From the jobs plan I know that my hon. Friend is determined to do what it takes to help young people find access to the work that is so vital to their futures. What other support is available, in addition to the kickstart scheme, that will help young people in Basildon and Thurrock to recover from the effects of the pandemic and secure future opportunities?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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My hon. Friend is exactly right, and we are rolling out youth hubs across the country so that our young people can access that important wider support. Those hubs will be co-located and co-delivered with our network of external partners, including members of the youth employment group. Our jobcentres are already delivering activities at local level to support our young people, including mentoring circles, virtual job fairs and sector-based work academy programmes.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 7th January 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sarah Newton Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Sarah Newton)
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No, I do not think that that time is at all acceptable. That is why we have been working so closely with our colleagues in the Ministry of Justice to make sure that people can have their appeals heard much more swiftly. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that more than 200 new judges have been recruited to the tribunal, and that through the use of automation we are beginning to see waiting times for appeals reducing greatly. But let us look at this overall: PIP works for the vast majority of people, and of the decisions that have been made, only 9% have been taken to appeal and 5% overturned. We are constantly looking to make sure that we make the right decision the first time, but the situation is improving.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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T8. How are the Government supporting my young constituents to get into gainful employment?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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It was a pleasure to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency last summer and see the fantastic work and the jobs revolution that is taking place in Basildon. It was also a pleasure to meet dBD Communications, one of his top companies, which has done a fantastic job in creating new employment and getting new training work done, and has an expanded order book that is enhancing job opportunities in Basildon.

ESA Underpayments

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Thursday 19th July 2018

(5 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Sarah Newton Portrait Sarah Newton
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I thank my hon. Friend for making such an important point. We must always recognise the really positive contribution that people with health conditions and disabilities make across the whole of society, including at work. I commend her for accepting the community challenge. I commend all Members across the House who will go out into their communities this summer and encourage more employers to provide work experience, internships and employment for the huge talent pool of disabled people that we have in our country.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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Can my hon. Friend confirm that once a claimant has been identified and contacted about their under-payment, they will have access to a free phone line so that they can pursue their claim, and will be paid within 12 weeks?

Sarah Newton Portrait Sarah Newton
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Yes, I can make that commitment. We have already started to contact people and we are already making payments. Once we have contacted someone, we will make the freephone telephone number available to them, and we will pay them as soon as possible, but certainly within 12 weeks.