Lord Freud – 2016 Speech on Benefits Payments System


Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud, the Minister of State for Welfare Reform, on 18 July 2016.

Thank you Maurice and Gerard for inviting me here this evening.

Despite all the changes we have seen in recent weeks, it is important that our work goes on, and that we continue to deliver change in the payments system.

Government is looking at this work very closely, on a unified basis. We are preparing a coherent position paper that sets out how we can improve our service to citizens, based on proposed changes to the payments system. And we are aiming to publish this shortly.

Despite a few personnel changes – although, I am pleased to report that I am the longest serving minister since 2010 – do not underestimate that this is right at the top of the government’s agenda.

That is why I am glad to be here tonight, following on from the Payments Innovation Conference and the developments that have been happening in this sphere.

Payment Strategy Forum consultation

Last week the Payments Strategy Forum (PSF) published their draft strategy for consultation. I have heard that this has been received positively by those in the payments community.

I congratulate Ruth Evans, those at the Payments System Regulator and all those involved in the forum – I know some of you are here this evening – on producing such a clear draft strategy.

My department, the Department for Work and Pensions, is the biggest single user of the payments system. Every year we distribute around £167 billion to 22 million people.

Representing payments on this scale, I welcome the document’s overall approach of being responsive to user needs, and basing the solutions on the available evidence. I also welcome that a wide range of stakeholders, including government, had input into this document.

I particularly welcome the PSF’s conclusion that – at the heart of many of the improvements that can be made to payments systems – sits the enhancement of data, that can be associated with transactions as and when they are made.

The government’s needs

While the forum has been producing this work, my own and other departments have also been looking at how we could make use of enhanced data capability – to improve the way we provide services, and to make the lives of our citizens better.

This work has identified a number of processes involving our use of financial data that could be significantly improved, if we had data in real time which was verified by the payments system.

Many of these situations not only align very closely with the solutions set out in the forum’s document, but also match cases for individual and business users of the payments system.

To take an example, when insurance companies have to pay back overpaid health charges, currently they have to make a single payment. But separately they also have to submit a schedule of all the individuals to whom the payment relates.

Then we, of course, have to do the reverse, allocating proportions of the payments to the relevant individuals and their claims.

I want to see a system where there is the ability to send payments and schedules together. This will make reconciliation at both ends easier. And it would have clear efficiency and cost saving benefits.

Looking at examples across government, businesses, and the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector, I believe the possibilities of enhanced payment data have the potential to bring about very significant reductions in cost.


While the work the PSF and the government have been doing has focused on improvements that could and should be made, there is still a lot of work to be done – which I am sure the forum would be the first to acknowledge.

Strategies and identifiable user cases are all very well, but none of them means much without there being a clear plan for how they will be delivered.

The consultation questions posed in the PSF draft strategy ask for contributions from the industry on just that point. And I would, as I did at the Payments Innovation Conference last week, urge all of you to respond as constructively and comprehensively as you can.

I understand the consultation period is relatively short, but we are not starting from scratch.

I know a lot of work has been going on across the payments landscape. For example:

Payments UK’s work on the World Class Payments System
work to comply with the Competition and Market Authority’s requirements on APIs on Open Banking Data

As the PSF have set out in its document, all this activity and the government’s needs are, in principle, capable of being aligned and built into a strategic framework.

I would like to see you – the payments industry – take advantage of this alignment and this framework. So that we can move smoothly after the strategy is finalised to planning and delivery.

That would enable all users of the payments industry to build changes and improvements in the UK’s payments systems into their longer term plans.

Data security

I have been involved in work with payments systems for some 5 years. It is worth reminding ourselves of the reasons that my department and my ministerial colleagues have been interested in this.

The UK’s payments system is not just the financial lifeblood of our country. It is also a secure, reliable, resilient and ubiquitous data carriage network. Currently the data carried by that system performs one specific task.

Throughout the 5 years I have been involved, our driver has been to see what else this system could do with an enhancement of its essential data carriage function.

For my part, I am committed to improving the experience of welfare for those who rely on welfare payments – especially for those who are the most vulnerable in our society.

Any changes that are made to the payments system must ensure that security and privacy are paramount. And that we protect our core national infrastructure, which has the potential to transform functions across all sectors.


As I said last week, the work that we in government – and you the industry – have been doing, has brought a large degree of alignment and consensus.

I would like to think that with the regulators working to align their position, the identification of user situations, and investment by the industry – we are set to ensure real change in the UK’s payment system, to the benefit of citizens, businesses and government.

I look forward to a constructive consultation period, a quick transition into planning and delivery phase, and real change soon.

Lord Freud – 2016 Speech on Welfare Reform


Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud, the Minister of State for Welfare Reform, in Birmingham on 11 July 2016.

It is a pleasure to be here in Birmingham for the annual IntoWork Convention.

Your aim at the Learning and Work Institute is that everyone has the opportunity to realise their ambitions and potential – in learning, work and throughout life.

Through the welfare reforms my department has been driving over the last 6 years we have sought to do exactly this.

Whether that’s been through changing the role of jobcentres, transforming the benefits system with Universal Credit, introducing new employment programmes, or testing innovations to constantly improve – we have endeavoured to get people into sustainable work, and to give them the support to stay in and progress in work.

What we are now seeing is an enormous cultural change – a change in the way that welfare is viewed, organised and delivered.

And I believe these changes are behind the labour market figures we are now seeing – with unemployment at its lowest rate for a decade, and the number of workless households down by over three quarters of a million since 2010.

Today I want to talk about the changes we have introduced – and about the innovations we are trailing to support people with complex and multiple barriers in to work.

So that we can continue to drive down the unemployment rate, and make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enter work and realise their potential.

Changing role of jobcentres

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is taking people to jobcentres who have not been there for a number of years.

They still think of it as depicted in the Full Monty – with counters, job cards in windows, and long dole queues.

The welfare system we inherited discouraged work. Instead of giving people the tools and encouragement to look for employment, it wrote off large numbers of people as incapable of work.

Jobcentres were full of barriers – physical barriers with screens separating staff and claimants; technological barriers which made it difficult for people to search for up-to- date vacancies; and a routine of getting people to sign on instead of search for work.

When I take people to jobcentres now, they are amazed by the transformation that has taken place.

The system we have now is very different. It is more personal, it is digital, and it is more dynamic.

We have transformed the role of jobcentre staff. They now coach people into work by tailoring support to the needs of individuals and their local circumstances.

Through jobcentres people can get advice on finding a job, get help with retraining, and access thousands of new job vacancies every day.

This has also been made possible by digitally updating jobcentres so that people can access wifi and computers for their job search activities. And by up-skilling our own staff to assist people with their digital capability.

The new work coach approach means that jobcentre staff can work with claimants to create a personalised job search journey, concentrating on the person not on the benefits they receive.

It means that claimants can build up trust in their work coach, and that work coaches can get a better understanding of the claimants’ individual circumstances – so they can more effectively help them into sustainable employment.

I regularly visit jobcentres across the country, and when I make these visits what strikes me is the genuine enthusiasm, motivation and dedication of work coaches.

Because of our welfare reforms they feel that the system is unified – and that they can help people to lead independent, fulfilling lives through the tools we have put in place.

Universal Credit

There are a number of causes driving the labour market figures we are seeing. And I believe an important factor is the change in the relationship between jobcentre staff and claimants – driven by the introduction of Universal Credit.

We have shown that we can deliver real change by introducing Universal Credit – the biggest transformational change in the history of the welfare system.

Universal Credit is now live in all 712 jobcentres around the country. And by the time it is fully rolled out, it will affect 7 million people’s lives.

It is already making a real difference – with people moving into work faster and staying in work longer.

When we compare those who are receiving Universal Credit to a similar cohort of people receiving one of its legacy benefits, Jobseeker’s Allowance, we can see that people on Universal Credit:

– are spending around 50% more time looking for work

– they are 8 percentage points more likely to be in work

– and they are more actively looking to increase their earnings when they are in work

Universal Credit better reflects the world of work, to help people make the transition into employment more easily. With personalised support work coaches, monthly payments direct to people’s bank accounts, and support in and out of work.

It is also designed to be digital to respond to the technological changes in the way we live now.

Instead of having to go to a jobcentre to make an application, or phone multiple agencies to report a change in circumstances, people can now manage their claims online through a single account.

Data we have had from claimants receiving the Universal Credit full service shows that 99.6% of applicants for Universal Credit submitted a claim online. And 88% of changes of circumstances were reported online.

Universal Credit is transforming welfare, and it is central to our vision of a society where everyone can succeed and break free of dependency.

Work Programme

Together with the changes to jobcentres and the benefits system, our employment programmes have also played major roles in getting people back into work.

Key to this is the Work Programme, which we introduced in 2011 to support those at risk of long term unemployment back into work.

I believe the Work Programme has been a significant part of the growing economy, by supporting over half a million people to move into sustained employment and helping nearly 1.3 million people spend time off benefits.

Here in the Greater Birmingham area, nearly 35,000 people have moved into employment through the Work Programme.

The Work Programme has succeeded in transforming the lives of those furthest from the labour market. Participants are not just finding work, they are keeping it.

Throughout the country, in areas like Birmingham, providers are delivering innovative services to support participants back into work. Services such as budgeting advice, and support to overcome addictions and manage health conditions.

The Work Programme was designed and built for a different labour market when unemployment was higher.

The labour market we have now is one with a record employment rate. What remains is not cyclical unemployment but structural unemployment.

And it is only right that we adapt the support we provide to focus on this group.

This is what is driving our new Work and Health programme. It is being designed to tackle the remaining barriers.

Our new programme will test different approaches, and design and commission tailored programmes across the country.

We want to see a cross sector approach and encourage more collaboration and integrated services.

That means bringing together the health service, the welfare system, local authorities, the third sector, employers and disabled people themselves.

By working more closely together, we can become more effective at supporting more people back into work.

In designing this new programme we are taking the most successful aspects of the Work Programme and Work Choice.

We want to build on the success of everyone who went through these programmes, so that more people have the opportunity to enter work and change their lives.

Universal Support

To be successful in pushing employment up and unemployment down, we must become better at supporting the most vulnerable and excluded in society in to work.

Our aim is to support the needs of anyone whose conditions are stopping them from finding and staying in work.

It is not just the Work and Health programme which is focusing on tackling people’s barriers.

There are a number of other areas where we are working in partnership with local authorities and other organisations to do this.

For many people who are moving to Universal Credit, the transition will be straightforward.

However, we know that for some people, managing their Universal Credit claim online and budgeting their award effectively may be difficult.

That is why we have developed Universal Support to help people by improving their financial and digital capability.

We have been trialling this through our Universal Support delivered locally initiative. This tested the most effective way to deliver budgeting support and assistance with digital services in different areas of the country.

From the evidence we published last week we can see that there is a strong need for this service.

It has also shown us that claimants who need this support often also have a range of barriers such as literacy issues, a fear of technology, and difficulties accessing computers and broadband.

We aim to build on this work by looking at how Universal Support can be expanded – by encouraging joined-up services – to cover a wide range of complex barriers. The barriers that entrench worklessness and damage people’s life chances – for example, homelessness, addictions and debt problems.

An example of this working is the Welfare Partnership Hub located in Ashford jobcentre in Kent. This hub brings together a range of partners – local authority housing officers, the homeless charity Porchlight, Turning Point, a volunteer’s centre, Citizens Advice, and other local organisations.

Work coaches ensure that problems they identify in the claimants they see are tackled immediately by referring them directly to the relevant service in the hub.

Through such locally designed and integrated services, we can better meet the needs of people with complex and multiple barriers. And help them into sustained employment.

Localism and co-location

Indeed, this fits in with the wider government localism agenda of shifting power away from Whitehall – and giving local communities the power to shape local services to meet local needs.

As part of our Universal Support trials we modelled 4 different ways of integrating services to support people.

In some cases jobcentre and local authority staff were fully integrated into a single team, with support services co-located.

More commonly, all services were co-located into a single building, typically in a local authority building.

In the third model, jobcentre staff triaged claimants and referred them to services.

Finally, in some rural trials services were dispersed or delivered through networks of partner organisations.

What the Universal Support trials showed was the importance of the location of support services in determining whether or not claimants chose to engage with them.

The trials showed us that the co-location of services – where jobcentre services and local organisations are integrated within a local authority building – often led to a better service for claimants.

Access to support was more streamlined, there was better communication, and a more effective resolution of issues.

We currently have around 40 co-location arrangements in place and the benefits are clear – for claimants, our staff and for the tax payer.

Examples of this include Islington’s local authority Customer Centre. This hosts all 3 digital, financial and employment services.

Having these services in one place minimises the handover time between services and provides claimants with a “one-stop shop” for support services.

In Islington we found that bringing work coaches into the Customer Centre significantly increased the numbers of hard to reach claimants, whom they had previously had difficulty engaging.

The informative and helpful manner of staff and volunteers, combined with engagement in the home, was highly valued and claimants reported that it made them feel more comfortable to disclose information.

In more rural areas, where local geography limited the scope for co-locating services, we trialled a “hub and spoke” approach – for example in South Staffordshire and in West Lincolnshire.

This ensured that vulnerable and isolated claimants had a greater chance of benefiting from support services.

The trials have shown us that integrating support through co-location and joint working has greatly increased the variety of services available for claimants.

And that using this approach we can deal with a greater range of needs and treat barriers to work holistically.

Progression in work

Our reforms have not just been focused on getting people into work, but also on getting people to stay in and progress in work.

That is why – alongside the budgeting and digital support we are developing – we are trialling support looking at how people can progress in work.

This is the first time that any country has made a significant commitment to support people through the welfare system – to try and increase their earnings and progression at work. And to become independent of the welfare state.

We have developed a substantial programme of work to form the evidence base about what will be most effective in delivering this.

Part of this is the in-work progression trial run by jobcentres. This large-scale randomised control trial is being rolled out nationally across jobcentres, and will test different ways of supporting people in work and conditionality.

But it is clear that others outside of jobcentres have a key role in supporting progression. So, we are testing different approaches with a range of externally led trails.

These include:

– work with Goals UK, looking at motivational techniques to change individual attitudes to progression

– work with Timewise, who are testing ways of supporting progression through the design of job roles and workplace flexibility

– and projects my department is co-ordinating with the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES)

The UKCES projects involve 7 trials in the retail and hospitality sectors – sectors which have some of the lowest pay rates in the country.

Employers running these trials are testing strategies that demonstrate both clear business benefits – such as higher staff retention and productivity – and increased earnings for low paid employees.

These are crucial in helping us to develop the business case to support progression, and are vital if we are to address the wider issue of productivity.

These trials include a wide range of initiatives, such as:

– innovative work to develop a smartphone app with online learning, career coaching, and support for up-skilling

– redesigning job roles to enable progression for part time workers

– developing pathways for progression at work across the retail sector

– delivering tailored master-classes in the tourism sector
and supporting employers to improve people management and productivity

Across all the trials over 100 organisations are working in partnership to find innovative ways of designing jobs, delivering training, and ultimately raising the take home pay of workers on low wages.

All 7 of these trials have reported that they have made progress towards the aim of improving pay and progression for low paid employees – and that there is the potential to further enhance these opportunities over the next 12 months.

Indeed several of these projects are in discussion with other employers and stakeholders within their sectors to expand the reach of their trial beyond their funded period.

Implications of Universal Credit

To return to Universal Credit, it one of the biggest change programmes in government. The scale of it is driving innovation in other areas of my department’s work.

For example, it has implications for how funding for supported housing is best delivered in the future.

And it is a driver for innovation in the payments industry. There are a number of advantages to enhancing the payments system to enrich Universal Credit. From being able to reimburse childcare payments in real time, to minimising the opportunities for fraud and error to take place.

In my own opinion, in order for Universal Credit to be truly successful, it cannot just focus on getting people into work.

We have had a work first approach but we must focus, in equal measure, on ensuring that people stay in work and progress in their careers.

To me, this is fundamentally about pulling together the skills agenda alongside this work first approach.


What we are now seeing – in the development of the new Work and Health programme, in the expansion of Universal Support, and in our trials around progression in work – is a focus on partnerships and integrated services to help people overcome multiple barriers and move into employment.

Over the last 6 years we have introduced structural and meaningful changes in the welfare system.

This has transformed the welfare system into one that is focused on individuals and their personal journeys into employment.

We have achieved an enormous cultural change – and this is borne out by the strong labour market figures we are now seeing.

Our ambition has been to transform people’s lives by giving them the tools, incentives and support they need, to move into work and out of poverty.

I believe that this is what we are seeing now, and that the policies I have talked about today will continue to achieve this.

Lord Freud – 2016 Speech on Reforms to Support Social Sector Tenants


Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud, the Minister of State for Welfare Reform, in Manchester on 29 June 2016.


It is a pleasure to be here in Manchester for the Chartered Institute of Housing’s conference in its centenary year.

Over the last 100 years, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has been at the forefront of campaigning for and creating better homes and better lives for families across the UK.

Your ambition to improve people’s lives and situations is one that is fundamental to welfare reform.

When I spoke at your conference 4 years ago, I stressed the importance of the social housing sector to the success of welfare reform, and in particular to support people at the heart of your organisations – tenants.

The welfare reforms we have delivered have been made with one purpose in mind: to get Britain back to work. We know that work is the best route out of poverty.

Our reforms have sought to renew incentives to get a job and help people overcome the barriers they face.

And our reforms are working. Since 2010, there are:

– 764,000 fewer workless households
– 36,000 fewer households where no member has ever worked
– 449,000 fewer children living in workless households

This is the fruit of our welfare reform: people re-engaging with the labour market and transforming their own and their family’s lives.

Alongside this ambition, however, we recognise the importance of protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

We have and are developing provisions to do this fairly in our housing reforms, through the benefit cap and in Universal Credit.

Today I want to talk to you about these protections. And I also want to talk to you about how much I value the work you have done and that we continue to do together.

Supported housing

I have huge admiration for the work that the supported housing sector does. I also recognise the complexity of the sector, and the diversity of the services being delivered.

I understand the concerns that many of you had following last year’s announcement that the local housing allowance caps would be extended to the social rented sector.

That is why in March we put in place a one year deferral to the policy for supported housing.

The supported housing sector is vital to the delivery of so many of the government’s policy objectives – not only in my own area of work and pensions. It plays a crucial role in ensuring:

– that those with learning difficulties can live as independent a life as possible

– that vulnerable elderly people have somewhere to grow old safely
and that care leavers can make the transition to self-reliance

For hundreds of thousands of people across the country – from those with mental health conditions, to ex-offenders, to those escaping domestic violence – the importance of supported housing cannot be overestimated.

What is important now is that we make decisions on the future of the sector based on the best available evidence.

And that we ensure support is focused on the most vulnerable, with appropriate safeguards.

So that we can get the best provision possible, such as that provided by Riverside, Nacro, Anchor Trust and Richmond Fellowship here in Manchester – which provide support to rough sleepers, people addicted to alcohol, older people and those with mental health problems respectively.

We recognise that the vast majority of providers deliver a genuine and valuable service, however, on the rare occasions where it does exist, we want to root out sub-standard treatment that does the most vulnerable of people in our society a great disservice.

The need for long term reform in this sector was well established before the Local Housing Allowance caps announcement.

The roll out of Universal Credit already meant we needed to think about how funding for supported housing is best delivered in the future.

That is why my department – jointly with the Department for Communities and Local Government, who you will hear from later today – commissioned a supported housing evidence review, nearly 2 years ago.

This will tell us much more about the shape, scale and cost of the sector. And it is the first such evidence review in over 20 years.

The review is now nearing its end and we hope to be able to publish it shortly.

This is of course an issue that affects many parts of government and our colleagues in the devolved administrations. I am working with a broad range of ministerial colleagues to find the policy solution to this issue.

An important part of this policy work is talking to you, the sector. You are not just a vital sector but a diverse one.

That makes it even more essential that we engage extensively with you ahead of bringing forward any proposals. So we fully understand how the system works at present on the ground.

As part of the evidence and policy reviews, we have spoken with over two hundred stakeholders from all nations of Britain. This includes local authority commissioners, providers of supported housing, charities, sector membership organisations and individuals themselves living in supported housing.

The insights and expertise that all these groups have brought to both the evidence review and the policy thinking have been immensely valuable. And we are continuing to listen.

For me, answering the question of long term reform also offers us an opportunity to think about how this crucial sector operates. For example:

– What can we do to ensure that quality and an outcomes focus are at the heart of what we do?

– How can we ensure that the system allows for and indeed drives innovation to build on what we know already works?

– We all know these are not simple questions. That is why we are working quickly to understand what the evidence is telling us.

Building on this review, we will work with you to put in place appropriate protections. So that those who need supported accommodation – often the most vulnerable in our society – have appropriate and sustainable housing.

Benefit cap

Now let me turn to the benefit cap. We introduced the benefit cap to incentivise work, and that is exactly what we are seeing.

Our research has shown that capped households are 41% more likely to enter work than similar uncapped households.

The benefit cap has been in place for 3 years and of the 73,000 households who have been capped, around 53,000 households are no longer subject to it. Nearly 22,000 of these households have moved into work.

The benefit cap is helping families to make positive behavioural changes. It is strengthening work incentives in the benefit system, and improving life chances.

The lower and tiered cap coming in this autumn is a key part of our commitment to reduce long-term welfare dependency.

My department is already proactively supporting people who will be affected by the new cap.

We have written to local authorities and to people likely to be affected so that we can advise them of the support available. Support to move into work, as well as budgeting and housing assistance.

There is a close partnership between jobcentres and local authorities focused on helping those affected by the benefit cap move into employment – and away from benefit dependency.

This includes conducting home visits for the most vulnerable – in some cases jointly with housing associations.

This activity will give people time to explore and take up support before the new cap comes in.

Along with this support, we are continuing to provide funding for Discretionary Housing Payments and have committed to £870 million over this Parliament.

This is for local authorities to be able to provide additional financial support for those who need it most.

Along with our desire to support the most vulnerable to move in to employment, we also recognise and value the work that carers and guardians do across the country.

That is why we have created new exemptions from the benefit cap for households entitled to Carer’s Allowance or Guardian’s Allowance. And these will take effect later this year.

Universal Credit

The roll-out of Universal Credit is a good example of government and the housing sector working together effectively.

We have delivered welfare reform and together we have been able to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

We have been continuing to improve the Universal Credit service and in particular our relationships with local authorities, landlords and housing representative groups.

Taking on your feedback, we have developed a number of measures to make Universal Credit better for the sector and better for tenants.

To name a few:

– we have enabled social landlords to be notified when their tenants make a claim to Universal Credit, so that they can apply for Alternative Payment Arrangements for tenants in arrears

– we have implemented an escalation line for landlords to contact the Universal Credit service centre to minimise the risk of evictions
we have published a landlord support pack on GOV.UK to help landlords prepare their organisation, staff and tenants for Universal Credit

Our Trusted Partner pilot is a further demonstration of our partnership working. We have worked with social landlords to allow them to identify tenants who would be unlikely to pay their rent when they started receiving Universal Credit. They were able to recommend that these tenants instead had an Alternative Payment Arrangement.

However, the support did not end with putting in place a different method of payment. These landlords worked with their tenants to provide on-going support, so that in time, their tenants could pay their rent independently.

Early evidence has shown positive outcomes and we will continue to review this over the coming months.

Universal Support

We are not content with stopping here but we are intent on supporting the most vulnerable of claimants.

Our aim is to support the needs of anyone whose conditions are stopping them from finding and staying in work.

Our work coaches now have the flexibility to tailor support for individuals in difficult circumstances. For example, they can remove work search requirements from people facing homelessness to allow them to sort out their housing situation.

We know that for some people, managing their Universal Credit claim online and budgeting their award effectively may be difficult.

That is why we have developed Universal Support to help people by improving their financial and digital capability. This is done through budgeting support and assistance with digital services, delivered by local partners.

Universal Support is already transforming the way jobcentres work as part of their local communities. They are now more effective in tackling the barriers that harder to help people face in getting into sustainable employment.

When I visit jobcentres across the country – from Southampton, to Grantham – what strikes me is the genuine enthusiasm of work coaches.

Because of Universal Credit, for the first time they feel that the welfare system is coherent. And that they can help people to lead independent, fulfilling lives.

Universal Support will take this even further, ensuring that we can truly help those who are the hardest to help.

We are now considering how to expand Universal Support to cover a wide range of complex barriers. These are the barriers that ultimately lead to worklessness and poor life chances – including addiction, problem debt, homelessness, lack of basic skills and a history of offending.

Expanded Universal Support aims to address these barriers by encouraging a system of joined-up services at a local level.

For example the Working Well pilot here in Greater Manchester. Local services are working together to address people’s barriers to employment. They are tackling people’s health, housing and debt issues and providing employment and skills support. Because of this joined up approach, over 230 people of the hardest to help have been supported into employment.

Through such locally designed and integrated services, we can better meet the needs of people with complex and multiple barriers. And help them into sustained employment.

Housing sector

What has struck me over the last 6 years, is that despite the scale of our welfare reforms, the housing sector has adapted in the interests of their tenants.

Many housing providers have looked at their social obligations and have stepped up to support their tenants.

They have identified the skills that their tenants are missing and developed ways to fill this. Whether that’s through helping tenants with budgeting support or providing employability courses, these initiatives are helping people to lead independent and fulfilling lives.

I do not underestimate the commitment of you and your staff to achieve this goal. Nor do I underestimate the cultural and organisational change that many of you have invested in.

I was very impressed by a visit I made to Bromford social housing in the Midlands. Through their “Bromford Deal” tenants make a commitment to invest in their own development in return for being a Bromford tenant.

Bromford are using their relationship with tenants to get them ready for the world of work and away from benefit dependency.

And there are many more examples.

From the YMCA, which awards points towards moving into a self-contained flat for engaging with education, training and employment.

To St Basils in the West Midlands, which is incentivising training with housing, working in partnership with the local NHS.

Indeed, according to the National Housing Federation, over a third of housing associations offer employment and skills services – with more planning to do so.


Our ambition is to transform people’s lives by giving them the tools, incentives and support they need to get into work and stay in work.

By doing this we are determined to move our country to a lower welfare society, where those who need support get it. And where we protect the most vulnerable.

We have worked tirelessly to improve the economy, increase employment opportunities for all and achieve lasting welfare reform.

Today we can see the results:

– with the employment rate at a record high

– with the number workless households in the social sector down from a peak of 49% in 2010, to 39% last year

– with Universal Credit continuing to pull people out of benefit dependency and out of poverty traps

We all have our part to play in this. And I am very encouraged by the support and resources that housing associations and other partners here today are providing for tenants.

From supported housing, to the benefit cap, to Universal Credit, and now to Universal Support – we have shown we can work together to ensure that we protect and support vulnerable people.

As the CIH celebrates its achievements over the last 100 years – and looks ahead to shaping the future of housing – I look forward to working with you to realise the vision of improving housing and improving people’s lives.

Lord Freud – 2016 Speech on Welfare Reform


Below is the text of the statement made by Lord Freud in the House of Lords on 29 February 2016.

My Lords, the other House has now considered Lords Amendment 1, which was proposed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. The intention behind that amendment was to insert a new clause into the Bill, which would have increased the measures on which the Secretary of State was required to report annually to include income-based measures. As I have said previously, that amendment has technical faults and would require redrafting to make it work as noble Lords intend but, moving quickly beyond the technical defects in that amendment, I have repeatedly tried to shine a light on the fundamental flaws of the income-based measure.

The “poverty plus a pound” approach that results from measures of this kind led to billions of pounds being invested under the previous Government, with little or no transformational impetus in the life chances of young people. It is widely recognised that the low-income measures can give a misleading picture. For example in a recession, when average income falls, poverty can appear to be falling too even if living standards have not improved for those at the bottom.

I stress again that low-income measures drive the wrong action, as I have sought to explain throughout the passage of the Bill through this House. Such measures simply focus on treating the symptoms of child poverty, whereas the Government are intent on tackling the root causes such as worklessness and educational failure. It is in these areas where we believe that the right action can make the biggest difference to the lives of disadvantaged children, both now and in the future.

Moving on, it is clear that substantial concerns remain that publication of the statistics on children in low-income families through the Department for Work and Pensions annual HBAI—households below average income—may not continue. This is despite the very clear commitments that the Government have given in both Houses and the protections already in place to safeguard HBAI as a national statistics product.

As I have said previously, I believe that the only difference on this issue between us is the word “statutory”. Given the doubts and concerns that remain about the continued publication of this low-income data, I am able to say that we have listened, we have heard and we are willing to provide further guarantees. Three of the four income measures—including relative low income, combined low income and material deprivation, and absolute low income—are already routinely published in the HBAI publication.

Through the government amendment we are putting forward today, we propose to place a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to publish this information annually. This provision will give the data the additional statutory protection that noble Lords sought. The amendment also places a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to publish new data on children living in persistent low-income households annually. The information will be based on a new data source, and the first figures will be published before the end of the 2016-17 financial year.

However, let me be clear that although we have given full statutory guarantees that this data will be published annually, we will not commit ourselves to laying a report before Parliament on it. This amendment is about providing a further guarantee that information on low income is made available for all to see, every year. Reporting to Parliament on income measures would incentivise government to take the wrong action and would simply continue to incentivise actions, such as direct income transfers, that will not tackle underlying factors.

We need to move on from this unhelpful approach. Resources are finite and it is crucial that the Government prioritise the actions that will make the biggest difference to children. The evidence is clear that this means tackling worklessness and low educational attainment, as set out clearly in our life-chances measures and approach. Any move to report on these low-income measures would divide government’s efforts and undermine this new life-chances strategy. I firmly believe it would not help to bring about the transformative change that we all wish to see.

It is worth talking briefly on one technical point in our amendment. Subsection (3) provides for the absolute low-income measure to be rebased in the data publication. This is vital because over time an absolute low-income measure using a 2010-11 baseline, such as that proposed in Lords Amendment 1, would be likely to become increasingly meaningless due to growth in the economy. As a national statistics product, the data publication already has significant statutory protections, guaranteeing that any rebaselining would be carried out by statisticians following best practice and free of any political influence. I reassure colleagues on this point.

I hope that these proposals will be welcomed in this Chamber. I urge noble Lords not to insist on their amendment and beg to move the Motion on the government amendments in lieu.

Lord Freud – 2014 Speech on Transforming Welfare


Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud, the Work and Pensions Minister, on 27th January 2014 at the Capita Welfare Reform Conference in London.

Thank you…..I am very pleased to be here.

I would like to use my time this morning to reflect on the past 4 years, and in particular how different the welfare landscape is now compared to 2010.

In short, it is very different. And the change has been long overdue.

We are introducing the most fundamental reforms to the welfare and pensions systems for more than 60 years.

These are structural changes designed to reward work, encourage responsibility and help those who need it most.

And we are already starting to see the impacts of these reforms.

When I started looking at the benefits system in 2007 the employment level stood at 29 million, and there were 3.4 million people on inactive benefits.

These figures stood at a similar level when I became a Minister in 2010 [employment = 29m – inactivity = 3.3m]

Today, the picture looks quite different.

Not only, as many of you will have seen last week, have employment levels hit a record high, rising to 30.2 million.

But we now have 2.95 million people on inactive benefits – a drop of nearly 400,000 in the last few years.

There are a number of factors driving these figures, but I believe one of them is the impact of the structural changes we are introducing to the welfare system.

When I wrote my report in 2007 it was clear that we had a system that was discouraging work, and that had written off large numbers of people as ‘incapable’.

It was a system designed around the lowest common denominator, that took away people’s control of their own lives, rather than empowering them:

– it penalised you if you wanted to work more than 16 hours a week

– it said to people with illnesses and disabilities that we didn’t think they were capable of anything, rather than looking at what they could do

– and for some people it meant that when you earned any money, you lost almost all of it in benefit withdrawals

We know that work is good for you, it gives you a purpose, it has huge health benefits and – most importantly – it puts you in control of your life.

Yet we were saying to some people that they would have more money if they stayed on benefits.

We had a system that was actually pushing people away from being in control of their lives.

So we started changing this, bringing in measures to help people find the right kind and level of activity for them, and designing a benefits system that didn’t assume people were incapable.

Because, as so many people delivering services tell us, the real barrier is how people see or think of themselves.

If they haven’t worked, if they have always been given a lot of help by others and not given the means and support to help themselves, then it is unlikely they will be able to take control of their own lives.


Behind this idea of giving back control is a theory I find really interesting, from the work of Aaron Antonovsky.

He argued that a purpose in life – what he called coherence – was crucial to understanding human health and well-being.

Whether we can overcome setbacks such as losing one’s job, or dealing with an illness, or whether they overwhelm us is, for Antonovsky, a function of whether these stresses violate an individual’s sense of coherence.

He says life should be comprehensible, manageable and have meaning.

Essentially that people can manage changes if they understand them, they have the skills and ability to manage their affairs and finally that they themselves have a purpose in life.

If people know why things happen to them, and they have the support and ability to manage their lives, they have a fighting chance of being able to maintain their well-being.

So we need to ensure that we support people’s lives by empowering them.

The longer someone is out of work, the less likely their life is to have an overarching sense of purpose or meaning. The less help people receive at vulnerable moments, the more likely they are to fall through the cracks.

And when you see well-being in these terms, then the Department for Work and Pensions becomes almost as relevant for people’s long term well-being as the Department of Health.

Helping people get into work gives them a purpose and meaning to life that may have been lacking.

This benefits society as a whole – work gives people a sense of pride, lifts them out of poverty and provides a model for younger generations to look up to.

Universal Credit

So we need a more responsive benefit system that empowers people. It should reward them for going into work and increasing their hours, not push them away from it.

And that is where Universal Credit comes in.

The idea behind Universal Credit is to create a much simpler and more flexible system that makes work pay…

…ensuring claimants are better off in work than on benefits…

… clearly showing how increasing hours increases earnings…

…while continuing to provide support for those who need it most.

And by having one flexible benefit with better earnings disregards it allows people who face bigger challenges – such as lone parents or people with disabilities – to take part in the economic life of the country and take control of their own lives.

By spring, Universal Credit will be live in 10 areas. From this summer we will progressively start to take claims for Universal Credit from couples and, in the autumn, from families too.

And our plans are for Universal Credit to roll out completely across the country during 2016, with new claims to all existing benefits that make up Universal Credit being shut down during this time.

From there we will move existing claimants of the current benefits over to Universal Credit, and we expect the vast majority of these to be on the new benefit by 2016 and 2017.

Early indications suggest that Universal Credit is starting to have the impact we are looking for.

We are already seeing that Universal Credit claimants are spending twice as long per week looking for work…

…are applying for more jobs per week…

…and are more confident about finding work in the next 3 months than comparable JSA claimants.

And 70% understand that they will be better off for each additional hour in work.

But while we expect that many people will be able to handle these changes well, we must ensure that help is there for those who can’t, or need support at first.

Local support service framework

That’s why I’ve been working incredibly closely with local authorities to develop the Local Support Services Framework.

This framework will do 2 vital things:

First, it will ensure people are supported to make the transition to Universal Credit by helping them adjust to some new aspects of the way they claim benefits.

And second, it will provide longer term support to the small number of people who find it more difficult to make this transition and need to gradually progress towards independence.

This is not simply about providing service lines for people, it is about supporting them to get the tools and skills they need to take control of their own lives.

A lot of hard work has already been done to develop this framework.

In December 2013 we published, in partnership with local government, an updated trialling plan. This sets out how we will work together over the course of the next year to test exactly what works in the delivery of Local Support Services.

That testing will build on the excellent learning that has already been done through the LA led pilots.

Just 2 weeks ago I held a very insightful workshop with all of the LA led pilot teams.

From Lewisham’s innovative triage process…

…to Bath and North East Somerset’s all-encompassing one-stop-shop…

…and a whole host of other examples, we are gathering some really important learning that will play a major role in the development of the Local Support Services Framework.

Direct payments

We have also been testing support for people through the Direct Payment Demonstration Projects, another crucial part of our efforts to give people control over their lives.

It used to be assumed that people weren’t capable of paying their own rent. And of course this made it even more daunting to move into work and manage their finances themselves.

The demonstration projects enlightened us in a number of ways. We discovered that of course a huge number of people are perfectly capable of managing their money. Across the different areas, the average successful rent collection rate stood at 94%.

And as a result more than half of the organisations involved have decided to leave their tenants on direct payment after the pilots ended.

And because the projects mean gradually increasing personal responsibility, they have also brought to light wider social problems as a result of the closer engagement with tenants.

There’s one particular instance that really sticks with me.

There was a family that was living in appalling conditions because the father was a lone parent of 4 children and struggling to cope with a heroin addiction – the benefit system had taken care of all their payments but isolated them.

Because of the projects, and the increased intervention that followed, the relevant authorities were able to step in and provide the appropriate support.

So for some people Direct Payments have proved a useful mechanism for highlighting where they need support.

But for those people who could be moving towards work, getting used to direct payments is crucial in preparing claimants for a seamless transition, and allows landlords an opportunity to increase their rent collection from this group of claimants in a phased and managed way.

I know there have been concerns about will happen when there are missed payments, or where a household isnt coping. So I’ll just describe the safety net we have here.

After 1 month of missed payment we can review the payment process and the claimant’s payment history.

And after 2 months we guarantee to move rent payment back to managed payments.

And these can be cumulative, so its not just about missing a whole month, but can be about a cumulative failure to pay rent.

So, we’ve learned a lot from the demonstration projects.

Indeed, I think they have been so valuable that I am keen that local authorities think about moving people on to direct payments earlier – so that we are supporting people to manage their own finances before they move onto Universal Credit.


Of course, Universal Credit is far from the only welfare change that we are introducing at the moment.

There are many others that are proving equally crucial in delivering the structural changes needed to drive down inactivity…

…but I’m afraid I do not have time to touch on them all in detail this morning.

Suffice to say that there is still much more work to be done.

I know many of you work in the organisations supporting these changes, and that it is not always easy.

But I think we should all be encouraged by the fact that we are starting to see some positive results.

Whether it be the record employment figures, rapid reductions in inactivity, or the positive feedback we are already getting from Universal Credit claimants, I believe these reforms are starting to work…

…and that we are…

…at last…

…starting to give people control back over their own lives.

I thank you for your support in making that a reality, and look forward to continuing this crucial work together in the years to come.

Lord Freud – 2013 Speech on Universal Credit


Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud to the Local Government Association on 12th December 2013.

Good morning, it’s a pleasure to be here.

First of all I want to thank the LGA for their help to ensure that local support services will be a firm part of Universal Credit.

I hope you have all seen the latest update on the Local Support Service Framework (LSSF) that was published last week.

It is the product of very close working between DWP and local government and lays the groundwork for our future work in partnership.

I will touch on the LSSF in more detail later on in my speech, but first I want to take a moment to reflect on Universal Credit (UC).

Universal Credit is no less than a revolution in our benefits system. Where successive governments have applied patches and tweaks, we are bringing in an overhaul. And it is long overdue.

The benefits system we have today was designed to reflect society in the mid-20th century.

It pays little regard to the way that society has changed, from the changing roles of women in the workplace, and the increasing importance of part-time work, to the overall flexibility of the modern labour force.

The idea behind Universal credit – and I am delighted to say we are already seeing this idea bear fruit in the pathfinder areas – is to create a much simpler and more flexible system that makes work pay.

Universal Credit successfully started rolling out in April of this year – 6 months ahead of schedule – in the Greater Manchester area.

We now have live service in 7 areas across the country, and this will grow to 10 areas by spring 2014, giving Universal Credit a national footprint.

And last week we set out the next steps for Universal Credit which build on our firm commitment to expand this programme in a safe and controlled manner.

Too many government – and private sector – projects fail because of a big bang approach. Governments in the past and across the world have built systems, announced a launch, and watched as the wheels fell off.

We have been clear that Universal Credit will break that mould and progress safely and securely.

As I said, by spring, Universal Credit will have live service in 10 areas. From next summer we will progressively start to take claims for Universal Credit from couples and, in the autumn, from families.

Once safely tested in the 10 live Universal Credit areas, we will also expand the roll-out to cover more of the north-west of England.

These steps continue our progressive approach – test, learn, implement – as we deliver this programme.

Our current planning assumption is that the Universal Credit service will be fully available in each part of Great Britain during 2016, having closed down new claims to the benefits it replaced – including working age Housing Benefit; with the majority of the remaining legacy caseload moving to Universal Credit during 2016 and 2017.

I would like to reassure you again that we will maintain the level of funding required to administer housing benefit in 2014/15.

Clearly last week’s announcement of our rollout plans will mean we’ll need to take a close look, with LGA colleagues, at 2015/16 funding.

We’ll need to make sure we take account of the position for those who’ve gone live with Universal Credit, and those who are yet to do so

We will also use the progressive expansion of Universal Credit over the next few years to carefully test how Universal Credit works in practice.

There will be three aspects to this testing.

First: we will look at how staff and claimants interact with the Universal Credit policy and systems on the ground. We are already getting some of this learning in the pathfinder:

86% felt the advice and support they were offered by their adviser matched their personal needs and circumstances

92% said they were being encouraged to find work or to increase the amount they are working

2/3rds agreed it provided better financial incentives to work.

Second: we will look to do more rigorous econometric testing to show the effect that UC has on our key outcome measure – increasing employment levels.


And third: we will test how Universal Credit works for and interacts with the most vulnerable groups in our society, and how local support services can work effectively.


We already have some evidence to suggest that many claimants will adapt well to the new system.


Evaluation from the Pathfinder – which mainly involves more straight-forward jobseekers at present – shows:


90% of claims are online

78% of those getting monthly payments were confident they could budget over the month

But while we expect that many people should be able to handle the changes well – we must ensure that help is there for those who can’t, or need support at first.


And that is where the relationship between DWP and local authorities is so important.


One of the areas where we have worked incredibly closely with local authorities is on the Local Support Service Framework. We published the first version in February this year and just last week we published an updated document – the Local Support Service: update and trialling plan.


This sets out how we can work together over the course of the next year to test and trial the arrangements and processes needed to make local support service work.

We want to work closely with you to test different arrangements for partnership working, financial management and the effective delivery of front line services.

We will soon come forward with more details of how you can get involved in this testing and trialling work and I hope many of you will take up that opportunity.

But the trialling and testing doesn’t just begin with the publication of the LSSF. As many of you know there is already much good work going on.

Useful testing and trialling has begun with the benefit cap, where we are seeing how councils can link with Jobcentre Plus and partners to give the right support.

Some of the innovative approaches have really impressed me.

In Croydon, Jobcentre Plus staff have been working with council staff. Joint teams based in the council offices are helping residents together.

This working together means that claimants are no longer pushed from pillar to post – but receive the help they need in once place.

And take the Digital Deal: I visited one of our pilot sites last month, A2Dominion, a housing association in Queens Park. I was very pleased with their work to get residents not only online, but confident and comfortable in doing so.

It is this kind of co-operation – that puts the claimant at the centre of the experience – which I am keen to replicate across the whole Universal Credit landscape.

It is a far better use of resources – and it leads to far better results.

We have also seen interesting examples from the local authority led pilots.

For example: Birmingham City Council wanted to move to a digital by default service for rent management as well as address problems with a number of new tenants who were defaulting on their rent and subsequently losing their tenancy.

They have reviewed the tenant’s journey, introduced a new digital log book, and identified how to nudge and change people’s behaviour.

This has led to both a significant reduction in the level of arrears among new tenants – approximately a 17% reduction at 12 weeks – and administrative savings of £61,000 by publishing online rather than in print.

And I was pleased to hear that in North Dorset Council the job clubs they have set up as part of the local authority led pilots have been a success.

Unemployment in the area has fallen by 13% and they are convinced the job clubs have had a major impact in this.

So, we have seen some really interesting lessons from these pilots already, but there is more I am keen to learn as we work on the evaluations.

In particular I want to get a more concrete picture of what Local Authorities have found works well and – crucially – what they have found doesn’t work so well in providing people with support.

And we are also seeing interesting lessons from the Direct Payment Demonstration Projects.

The Direct Payment Demonstration Projects revealed that many landlords just don’t know their tenants as well as they could.

Direct payments have opened the door not just to help with managing rent – but also to wider social problems that were out of sight.

Housing associations and councils have also been clear about the need for extra tenant support and data sharing. These are areas we are looking at right now.

The Direct Payment Demonstration Projects are coming to an end very shortly, but I’m pleased to say that more than half of the organisations involved have decided to leave their tenants on direct payment, and at least one of the landlords has decided to move all of their working age tenants onto a direct payment arrangement.

Getting used to direct payments is crucial in preparing claimants for a seamless transition into work and will allow landlords an opportunity to increase their rent collection from this group of claimants in a phased and managed way.

It makes a lot of sense, therefore, for local authorities and social landlords to consider encouraging those who will not need support to move onto Housing Benefit direct payments ahead of Universal Credit.

Before I finish, I would like to touch on the announcement made in last week’s Autumn Statement about the move to a Single Fraud Investigation Service.

The Single Fraud Investigation Service will be introduced as a single organisation within the Fraud and Error Services Team in DWP with implementation taking place in a phased approach from October 2014 – March 2016.

This positive next step builds on the great work done by the local authority, DWP, and HMRC pilot sites and will deliver a nationally flexible fraud investigation service covering the totality of welfare benefit fraud, including Housing Benefit and Tax Credits.

We will also work closely with local government, as part of a joint working group, to ensure that we continue to maintain close relationships and share data where permissible, on cases of joint interest, for example Tenancy Fraud.

In addition DCLG and DWP have agreed a £16.6m funding package to support local authorities in England to help local government’s fight against fraud and protect taxpayers’ money.

The newly appointed minister at DCLG, Baroness Stowell, gave a speech on Tuesday setting out further details on this. Similar discussions have taken place between DWP and the devolved administrations

As we step into 2014, the hard work of the last year will continue.

I want you to know we are keen to maintain the strong relationship that we have with local authorities and all the organisations we’ve been working with, and for you to build and maintain partnerships in your communities.

If you want to be involved in testing and trialling to prepare for Universal Credit then don’t hesitate to start activities in your area, or to let us know that you want to take part.

This trialling and testing is absolutely vital to the delivery of welfare reform, and with your input we can make sure that we continue to roll out Universal Credit in a safe and controlled manner.

Lord Freud – 2013 Speech on Welfare Reform


Below is the text of the speech made by the Work and Pensions Minister, Lord Freud, on 2nd October 2013.

Good morning, it’s a pleasure to be here.

When I spoke to you in this same town a year ago, I gave an overview of the changes that were set to come in during 2013 and spoke about the crucial role for local authorities in delivering welfare reform.

It’s been quite a year. The hard work of many of the people here today has been instrumental in enabling the introduction of genuinely significant reforms: Universal Credit, the benefit cap, and Personal Independence Payment to name but a few.

I want to use my time today to remind you why we are bringing these changes in, to update you on their progress, and, wherever I can, to look ahead to the future.

Let me start with the most significant of those changes I mentioned – the introduction of Universal Credit. On the 29 April of this year, the first ever claim to Universal Credit was made in Ashton Under Lyne.

Since then thousands of payments have been made, and thousands more will be made as progressive national roll out begins later this month.

To illustrate why Universal Credit is so significant, I want to reflect for a moment on the history of the area we are in now.

This area is, of course, no stranger to great change. Credited with being the home of the industrial revolution, it was at the heart of a transformation that had hugely positive consequences, but that also threw up a host of new social challenges.

Beveridge’s five giant evils of disease, ignorance, squalor, idleness and want were in part a product of this new industrial age. And from their identification, of course, came the birth of the modern welfare state.

But just as government was putting the finishing touches to Beveridge’s vision in the mid-20th Century, it was already finding itself behind the curve.

Postwar society was already changing – and with gathering speed.

Women began entering the workforce in much greater numbers. Full-time, ‘jobs for life’ became a thing of the past, while part-time, flexible work became the norm for many.

And the result? We found that a welfare system built to deal with 1940’s society was no longer able to deliver the support that people needed in a modern, flexible labour market.

For many people, taking work became almost a waste of time because of the way their benefits were withdrawn. That was if they could understand the horrendous complexity of the system in the first place.

Successive governments recognised elements of this challenge, and introduced individual ‘fixes’ to try to deal with it.

But often these fixes created as many problems as they solved.

Tax Credits are a good example: a laudable principle – making work pay – failed to really deliver in practice because it was bolted onto the pre-existing system, making things incredibly complex.

Universal Credit is different. It is based on a ‘first principles’ approach to the welfare system, a fundamental overhaul rather than another tweak or fix.

It creates a simple system, one that makes work pay at all hours and – most crucially – one that is flexible and responsive to a modern labour force.

Employers themselves are recognising that universal credit will bring much needed flexibility. Let me read you a quote from a Recruitment Hub Manager at B&Q:

One of our employees, Vicky, who has caring responsibilities, has until now only been able to work 16 hours a week due to how her benefits would have been negatively affected if she had accepted more hours offered by B&Q. With the introduction of Universal Credit she’ll have the opportunity to flex up her hours either on an adhoc or permanent basis and earn more without losing all of her Universal Credit.

And here is Phil Eckersley, Managing Director of ‘Home Instead Senior Care’ in Wigan:

Universal Credit will have a direct positive effect on my business. It will enable jobseekers and employees to work as much as they wish around their family and dependents’ commitments.

Of course such a fundamental change cannot be introduced overnight. We have been really clear about our commitment to introducing Universal Credit in a safe and controlled manner.

That’s why we started with a Pathfinder approach from earlier this year. And that’s why later this month we will begin the progressive national roll-out of Universal Credit as we expand to a further six Jobcentres.

We are also making significant progress in rolling out the wider elements which are critical to driving cultural change.

For example the new claimant commitment – which more firmly sets out claimants’ responsibilities – will be rolled out nationally from October, and we are already starting to roll out improved digital services across Jobcentre Plus.

So momentum is building, and this is an exciting time.

But I am also acutely aware that if Universal Credit is to work, it must work for the most vulnerable people.

I am absolutely determined that when more vulnerable claimants come onto Universal Credit we are ready to provide them with the support that they need.

That is why the Local Support Services Framework is so important. It is about how we – working with local authorities – can ensure that we are ready to deal with the additional or growing support needs that come from the introduction of Universal Credit.

To do this, we are putting a really strong emphasis on local partnerships between Jobcentre Plus district managers, local authorities and housing and charity sector providers.

We will be publishing an update to the Framework shortly, which will include information on testing and trialling. The testing and trialling will include aspects of the financial model and incentive structure, as well as exploring use of the European Social Fund as a potential funding stream.

We will also be testing the development of Personal Budgeting Support initiatives. This trialling is so important because it allows us to include lessons learned into the next iteration of the framework.

The updated Framework will also provide an update on key points of progress and agreement since the publication of the Framework in February. We then plan to issue a more comprehensive version of the Framework in autumn 2014, to inform local authority budgeting timetables for 2015 to 2016.

As many of you will be aware, the local authority led pilots are already testing elements of this framework, by introducing support services designed specifically to best suit local needs.

For example I’ve heard about how Lewisham Council in South London has developed a structured triage approach to identify vulnerable people who may require additional support with the transition to Universal Credit.

Claimants are contacted over the phone to discuss their skills and experience across the financial, digital, housing and employment spheres.

Scores are then assigned to the claimants answers. If they are considered ‘vulnerable’ a further support appointment will be triggered, where claimants are provided with tailored support plans and referred for specialist help where needed.

But when we talk about vulnerable claimants, I am aware that there are some concerns about the introduction of Direct Payments.

We must not lose sight of why this change is so important though. A driving principle behind Universal Credit is that the transition between being out of work and in work should be straightforward; people should not be scared of taking work.

Monthly housing costs paid directly to claimants are a key step to breaking down that barrier, as they reflect the way that the large majority of people are paid in work.

The Direct Payments Demonstration Projects are showing us what support people will need to make the transition to Direct Payments and what safeguards will need to be in place.

Nonetheless, we are alive to the concerns that some have had. As a result, we have developed a package of safeguards to protect landlords, including alternative payment arrangements for those with the greatest need and an automatic trigger point should claimants accrue arrears of up to two months’ rent.

We are also working on an early warning trigger should one month’s worth of rent accrue through persistent underpayment.

This gives us the optimum balance between empowering claimants to take control of their finances and minimising unnecessary risk for landlords.

It is still early days, of course, but initial results from the Demonstration Projects are encouraging. Figures from May 2013 show that the average rent collection rate is 94%.

I am keen that, as we move forward with this, we will continue to work with landlords in particular on preparing people for these changes. As part of this I hope that we will see some people moving on to Direct Payments before they move on to Universal Credit, so that they take that additional step towards work readiness early on.

Another of the big changes we have seen in the last year is the introduction of the benefit cap – which has now been rolled-out across the UK.

The introduction of the benefit cap has been a great example of how government and local authorities can work together to deliver reform. For this, I would like to offer a candid and genuine thank you to local authority staff.

The implementation of the cap highlights the positives of a progressive roll-out. It was introduced in April 2013 in four local authorities; then in two tranches over the summer and has now been successfully rolled out across the country.

The implementation approach was agreed with the Local Authority Association Steering Group. We agreed that lessons learned from phased rollout should influence the national approach. It did and we therefore agreed to manage delivery over ten weeks in two tranches.

We also gave local authorities low volumes in the first week so they could check all systems and processes worked; and we supported them through best practise events attended by hundreds of local authority staff. It’s been a steady and ultimately successful approach.

And we continue to work together to deliver the changes this policy is intended to create. For example I have been to Croydon where the local authority and DWP work side by side in the same building offering employment, housing and budgeting support.

It is public service at its best; working together to change lives for the better.

It is worth noting that since claimants were notified of the benefit cap in April 2012 over 15,000 claimants identified as living in potentially capped households have moved into work.

Indeed, research findings show that, of those aware that they were affected by the benefit cap, almost half took action in response, with the large majority of them either looking for work or undertaking job-related activities.

Like I said, we mustn’t lose sight of why these reforms are so important and I think these early results show the real significance of this policy.

And to continue the theme of cross government working, let me also update you on the progress of the Single Fraud Investigation Service pilots.

This is another example of smart working across central and local government to fully integrate policies and procedures to deliver a single service that investigates the totality of welfare fraud. Four pilots went live last November, with several more to follow this year.

Several colleagues have commended the working relationships and the sharing of expertise that has enabled the pilots to operate well.

This collaborative working led to the first prosecution of a case dealt with by the SFIS pilot earlier this year. On the 18th June a woman from Hillingdon was successfully convicted of fraudulently receiving an overpayment of over £13,000.

However, although the pilots have demonstrated the real positives of partnership working they have also identified some of the limitations of the current approach.

For example there have been clear challenges where people have been working across multiple locations, under different managers and with different terms and conditions.

These findings have informed the next stage of the process, which will explore how best SFIS should move forward as an integrated organisation.

But let me assure you that as we take this work forward we will continue to fully engage with local government representatives, local authorities, HMRC and our key stakeholders at every step of the way.

This is a period of great change for all of our people and we want to work closely with you to minimise the impacts that any transition might have.

As you will all be aware we have also introduced the removal of the spare room subsidy this year. I recognise the hard work that all local authorities are undertaking to deliver this important policy.

As with all our reforms, we are gathering evidence, learning and sharing best practice. We recently responded to concerns from the sector by increasing in-year funding for local authorities by £35 million to help support those affected to navigate the transition to the new arrangements.

That includes a £20 million contingency fund, which will provide extra support to local authorities who can demonstrate they are supporting their tenants to make the long term positive changes we’re all looking for.

I have been heartened by many of the innovative solutions I’ve seen and urge you all to continue this crucial work.

So, it has been a challenging year, but a very significant one.

We have introduced a number of far-reaching social reforms, based firmly on the principles of incrementalism, testing and learning, and partnership working.

And these will continue to be our watchwords in the months and years ahead.

It is my firm belief that it is only through the application of these principles that will we be successful in achieving our ultimate aim – the delivery of a welfare state fit for today’s society.

And I look forward to continuing to work with you on making that a reality.

Lord Freud – 2013 Speech on Universal Credit


Below is the text of a speech made by Lord Freud on 28th January 2013.

I am very pleased to be with you today – and for the opportunity to update you all on our vision for Universal Credit and on the progress of our wider welfare reforms.

But first let me set the context for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit will simplify the benefit system and tackle welfare dependency by making work pay.

It will reward people who go back to work by ensuring they are better off in work than on benefits. In fact, around 300,000 people will move into work as a result of Universal Credit. Three million families will be better off by around £168 per month.

The majority – 75 per cent – will come from the bottom two fifths of the income scale and transitional protection means no-one loses out by moving over to the new system.

As well as improving financial incentives, Universal Credit will offer seamless support for people making the transition into work, making it easier to understand the effect on their income and bringing an end to an absurd situation where a claimant’s benefit stops as soon as they start work.

There will be an early roll out of Universal Credit (the Pathfinder) in April 2013 in the North West to test the new system with local authorities, employers and claimants in a live environment. This will be a gradual process to ensure we get it right.

The programme will roll-out nationally from October 2013. It will be introduced in stages – as is right and appropriate for such a large programme.

We will pay Universal Credit monthly to reflect the fact that 75% of people in work are paid that way. The system will be designed around the patterns of working life, but we will make sure people who may struggle, don’t fall through the cracks.

Universal Credit is being designed as an online service, where people can make a claim and report changes just as they do with online banking – for many people this will be more convenient.

Digital services are already an integral part everyday life. Around 78 per cent of working age benefit claimants already use the internet – 48 per cent of those say they log on every day – many to search for jobs online.

But we know not everyone will be able to use online services. And so we are making sure that there will still be face to face and telephone support in place – the important difference is that this support will be geared towards helping people to use the online services in the future.

There is no doubt in my mind that Universal Credit will dramatically change the lives of millions of people in this country for the better by helping them to become financially and digitally able.

The new system will mean that a claimant’s experience of receiving Universal Credit will be brought into line with the world of work.

This is a huge change from the outdated and overburdened system we currently have and we will need to take the time to do it properly and put in the proper resources.

That’s why the work we are doing in partnership with the local authority associations on a local support services framework is so important. The framework will ensure effective local partnerships are put in place to help claimants budget and get online.

Since last summer we have been testing the type of support that we may need through twelve Local Authority-led Pilots. In addition, from April four local authorities Oldham, Wigan Warrington and Tameside will take the lead in supporting claimants in the Pathfinder areas of Greater Manchester and Cheshire. These authorities have already been highly proactive ahead of the pathfinder going live in April. They are currently setting up training courses for claimants who need help getting online, and installing computers into community centres and working with housing associations (in Wigan) to extend online accessibility for local residents.

We are also looking at how banks and credit unions can offer suitable financial products. For example, budgeting accounts (sometimes knows as “jam jar” accounts) so that claimants can budget and put by sums of money each month to pay their rent and household bills.

Around 4.2 million DWP claimants already have a bank account. However, historically some people on a low income have experienced difficulties in accessing and using banking products, often coming up against disproportionate penalties charges.

For Universal Credit we want to ensure as a minimum that claimants have access to an account such as a Basic Bank Account with standing order and direct debit facilities, which are safe and secure.

Alongside new banking products we will ensure vulnerable claimants such as people with debt problems, or those with poor numeracy skills are given practical support at the onset of their claim.

In practice this will mean that someone with debts may be referred to a debt advisory service for budgeting advice and someone who is not able to navigate the web, will be offered face to face or telephone support to help them make a claim for Universal Credit.

These bespoke services will be led through Local Authorities and other local organisations. As a result we expect many vulnerable claimants to become both financially responsible and digitally able. This will open up a wealth of new opportunities because of improved computer skills, such as new jobs through online job searches, better buying power and discounted utility bills through better banking facilities and access to reputable credit.

These are the key interconnecting features that will ensure a smooth and successful transition onto Universal Credit.

However, we recognise that there will always be some hard cases. Where this is the case vulnerable claimants could be made an exception to the payment rules for a period of time. Budgeting support will also be made available to support these individuals so that they can make a successful transition over time to the Universal Credit standard monthly payment.

If this is the case we will consider three levels of interventions.

Firstly we will look at a claimant’s ability to pay housing costs – in full and on time. Secondly we will consider whether monthly payments are suitable. And finally we will look at whether it’s appropriate for a split payment to be made to that household.

It will not however necessarily be the case that all three interventions will be put in place at any one time – that will depend on each person’s individual circumstances.

Much of our rules around alternative payment arrangements will fall from the work we are already doing in the six demonstration projects areas across England, Scotland and Wales to test the support needed for people to make rent payments direct, and to ensure the financial position of landlords is protected.

Paying housing costs direct is an integral part of Universal Credit and an important way of helping people to manage their own finances and become more independent.

But I know there is some concern that the switch may cause a ‘mass’ of claimants to fall into arrears at the onset. But that’s not going to be the case. The fact is that claimant transition will be gradual over a four year period. There will be no big bang effect and we do not expect landlords to suffer sudden losses of income.

Early findings from the demonstration projects show the majority of people are meeting their rent payments in full and on time. Over the first four months, 6,220 social tenants were paid their housing benefit directly and rent collection rates stood at 92%.

We will continue to test different rent arrears “trigger” levels so if a tenant falls behind on their rent, payment will switch back direct to the landlord and additional support will be offered to the tenant.

Of course Universal Credit is not the only reform we are making.

Last year marked major milestones in reforming Britain’s welfare system, and 2013 will be no different.

This year is about making reform a reality.

And we are on track to do so:

Universal Credit, starting with a pathfinder – in April

Personal Independence Payment also starting to roll out from April

The implementation of the Benefit Cap – from April

Localising elements of the Social Fund – from April.

To name just a few of the programmes the Government is implementing.

This change cannot come soon enough.

Lord Freud – 2011 Speech on Reforming Welfare


Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 6th December 2011.

My session this morning is on the welfare revolution.

And it really is a revolution. There is an awful lot going on at the moment.

The Work Programme is up and running, helping long term unemployed people find sustainable work.

The Sickness Absence Review was published a couple of weeks ago and we are working hard on the Government’s response.

Disabled people’s benefits are being reformed to make them fairer, more accurate and easier to tailor to individual need.

But today, I don’t want to talk about any of that.

Today, I want to focus on what’s at the heart of the welfare revolution – the Universal Credit – which we plan to introduce from October 2013.

This is a new income replacement benefit that will support people both in and out of work.

It will replace the complex array of benefits currently paid to people with little or no income with just one payment.

It will be simpler to claim, easier to understand and administer and more effective and responsive than its predecessors.

We are working on a real time information system that will mean we are able to find out how much people are earning and readjust their Universal Credit payment accordingly. This is better for people whose earnings fluctuate and will help to reduce fraud.

Most importantly of all people will know what they are entitled to.

We will withdraw Universal Credit at a steady rate as people start to earn more money.

This means if someone takes a job or increases the hours they work they will be able to work out exactly how it will affect their benefits – and see for themselves that they will be better off in work.

Today’s welfare system is a complicated mixture of benefits that have been added together, piled one on the other in a piecemeal way, as successive governments have sought to address different needs.

It hasn’t been improved so much as extended and stretched beyond any relevance to its original intention.

And what we’ve ended up with is unintended consequences, rules so complex that the civil servants administering them struggle to understand them and people trapped in welfare dependency are unable to find a way out of the system and get back on their feet.

This is not what Beveridge intended.

The introduction of Universal Credit will remove the rules and regulations that prevent people from getting back into work quickly.

It will take the welfare state back to first principles.

We want a welfare system that provides financial support for those unable to work – that goes without saying.

But for those who can work we want a system that encourages a return to employment as quickly as possible.

That’s how welfare support should work.

But today’s system barely works at all.

Let me take you through some of the vagaries of the current system.

The current Jobseeker’s Allowance system means you need to work 16 hours or more to come off benefit and see a real increase in your income.

However, for those remaining on benefit and working less than 16 hours, anything they earn over £5 if they are a single person, slightly more if they are a lone parent or disabled, will result in their benefit being reduced pound for pound.

This means someone over 25 can’t work for even one full hour per week at minimum wage without seeing an instantaneous fall in benefits.

If someone does find work for more than 16 hours per week but it is low paid they may be entitled to tax credits.

But they’d need to end their benefit claim and submit a new claim for tax credits.

The benefits system and the tax credit system don’t interact with each other.

So people trying to leave benefits find their benefit income stops instantly but there can be a long wait before tax credit payments start.

This gap in household income can be catastrophic for family finances.

It encourages people either to retreat back into the benefits system or worse, never try to leave.

Universal Credit deals with this issue.

The tax credit and benefit systems are brought together so there’s no need to move between different systems.

When someone does take a job the Universal Credit payment is tapered off at a steady rate so there’s no sudden loss of benefits.

There’s no catastrophic drop of income.

And there’s no 16 hour cliff edge, the Universal Credit will relate to the actual amount someone earns not disappear at an arbitrary number of hours.

The 16 hour rule has also had an impact on childcare support.

Under the old rules working parents could not claim help with registered childcare unless they worked more than 16 hours per week.

For lone parents in particular this made it particularly difficult to start to move into work.

Universal Credit deals with this issue.

We want to remove these barriers so parents can begin a gradual return to work.

Therefore, under Universal Credit, support for the costs of childcare will be available to all lone parents and couples, where both members are in work, regardless of the number of hours they work.

It will mean that for the first time around 80,000 extra families will be eligible to receive support through childcare.

Similarly, the rigidity of the present system makes any form of flexible working, whilst reliant on state support virtually impossible.

The current system is too clunky and slow to respond to changes in hours and incomes.

This means unemployed people have been unable to take work unless the employer can guarantee a minimum number of hours.

This rules out large numbers of agency jobs or casual work. It has made our unemployed population less flexible than the migrant workers who are filling those vacancies.

It is part of the reason why the number of people on out of work benefits remains around the five million mark.

Universal Credit deals with this issue.

Payments will be based on real time earnings.

So, people can work varying hours and still be confident of a minimum level of income.

The current system infantilises people.

It takes budgeting powers away from people by paying their rent and some of their bills for them.

Benefits are paid weekly or fortnightly, whilst most employees receive a monthly salary.

Benefits are paid to individuals where as most families manage their budget as a household.

This means the whole experience of claiming benefits has become completely removed from the experience of receiving a wage.

This encourages dependency because people literally do not know how they will cope without the support of the state.

Under Universal Credit the default position will be a single, monthly, household payment, wherever possible.

This means benefit claimants will have to manage their own finances – their full finances – so when they do find work it’s easier to leave the safety of the welfare system.

We will provide budgeting support for those who need it. This is a real opportunity to really change people’s lives by giving them the tools they need to take control of their finances.

That’s what the welfare revolution is all about – that’s the final goal – to bring an end to long-term benefit dependency and begin a cultural transformation.

Now I do have one more thing I want to talk to you about today – Support for Mortgage Interest payments.

These are payments made towards the interest on benefit claimants’ eligible home loans.

We think these payments should only be short term, to help people out when they fall upon hard times, so they don’t lose their homes.

The current system of SMI payments does not encourage people to get on top of their own finances.

It is also not sustainable. Even with today’s low interest rates it costs government £400million a year.

We want to recover some of the SMI money so we can reinvest it in helping more people.

For new claimants we are looking at options for recouping that money either when a house is sold or by levying a charge on the property for long term claims.

Today we have published a call for evidence seeking views on a number of options for retrieving some of these funds. We are also reviewing other aspects of our help for home owners.

The call for evidence closes in February next year and we are keen to hear your views.

All I have done today is mention a few small areas where our welfare reforms are going to change things for the better.

And these examples are replicated again and again as we bring coherence to a system that has been inadequate for too long.

But these reforms aren’t about designing a nice, sensible system.

They are about people.

They are about freeing people to get back into work.

Our welfare reforms are about transforming lives.

And that’s why they are worthy of the term welfare revolution.

Lord Freud – 2011 Speech on Entry Level Employment


Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Freud in London on 5th July 2011.

The stark message from today’s report is that we simply have too many unskilled people, not enough intermediate skilled people, and increasingly need very highly skilled people.

For a country coming out of recession this is a wake up call.

We are seeing slow and steady recovery, and the type and range of skills we will need to maintain growth is changing.

But this is not just about having skills for their own sake.

We know that people who leave school with no qualifications are over three times more likely to be out of work than people with a degree.

And there are wider benefits to having skilled people in work.

Some researchers estimate that a one percentage point reduction in the proportion of working age people with no qualifications would provide a net social benefit of between £32 and £87 million from reduced property crime in Britain.

But, as this report makes clear, skills training must be related to the reality of employment.

I was disturbed to read the findings of Professor Alison Wolf’s study into vocational qualifications published just a few months ago.

She found that among 16 and 17 year olds between a quarter and a third are in, or moving in and out of, vocational provision which offers no clear progression into employment.

We’ve developed vocational training that does not lead to a vocation.

We are teaching skills that are neither use nor ornament whilst at the same time employers are crying out for better skilled candidates.

This is madness.

We must ensure the skills system is geared towards the needs of employers.

But having the right skills is just one part of the picture.

As this report has found, for entry level jobs, having the right attitude to work is just as important, if not more so, than even basic skills.

Whilst the scope of today’s report is much wider than young people – looking, as it does, at all potential entry level candidates – it made me think of the Wolf report and our failure to properly equip the young with the skills they need in the real world.

I think, as a society, we have let young people down by not preparing them for life beyond education.

But worse than that, we have stood by as they have been sold a lie.

We have allowed reality television to make them an empty promise of overnight success.

Saturday night talent shows make ten second celebrities of ordinary people.

This is not harmless viewing; implicit in this programming is the notion that you can get something for nothing.

That if you wait around long enough your true talents will be discovered and fame and fortune will be yours.

It is time for these reality shows to get a reality check.

The rise of the cheap, temporary celebrity has eroded people’s responsibility to support themselves.

We have a triple whammy of failure for young people in Britain today.

The education system does not prepare them for the world of work.

The benefits system encourages inactivity.

And celebrity culture tells them it’s all going to be fine, that their moment in the sun is just an audition away.

It is small wonder that we have well over a million** **16-24 year olds who are not in full-time education or employment.

The real challenge of the CSJ’s report is how to restore employability in the unemployed.

The report quotes one employer who summarised employability using the acronym PRIDE:

– Professionalism

– Reliability

– Interest

– Determination

– Enthusiasm

How do we restore the principles of PRIDE in our young people and more generally in the long term unemployed?

We in Government hold some, but by no means all, of the levers for change.

As the CSJ report rightly points out family, peer groups and wider society also have an enormous impact on aspirations and expectations.

This is as much about culture change as it is about Government reforms in education or welfare.

Government is tackling these issues head on.

We have accepted Professor Wolf’s recommendations to improve the system of vocational education for 14-19 year olds.

And we are committed to raising the age of participation in education or training to 18 by 2015.

We are also committed to integrating employment and skills – making the real world of work the focus for skills training.

We will improve basic skills like literacy and numeracy by providing a full subsidy for basic skills training in England for everyone aged over 19 years old, regardless of benefit status.

We will also fully fund training for people on active benefits to address skills gaps, working with individuals and employers to ensure training is tailored to their needs.

And all training will be accredited meaning over time credits from completed courses will add up to full formal qualifications.

We are empowering Jobcentre Plus to work more closely with local employers, colleges and private providers to help ensure that flexible and responsive provision is delivered to meet the needs of employers and communities.

One of the most important aspects of this is work is ensuring they understand the local labour market and are able to respond accordingly.

Frontline services are being encouraged to operate much more strategically and have been granted the power to tailor support to the individual at the right time for them, rather than at specific points in time.

Additionally, Jobcentre Plus is now able to use data about current and emerging vacancies to identify future skills needs.

District managers will then work with local training providers to develop short courses designed to meet those needs.

In addition, from August this year we will give Jobcentre Plus advisers the power to require some benefit claimants to attend training if they are clearly missing specific skills which would help them to get a job.

We have increased the funding for apprenticeships to over £1.4bn this year, enough to train 360,000 apprentices, delivering real opportunities to progress across a range of industries.

Apprenticeships are an excellent way of building capacity for the future and ensuring young people in particular are able to move into fulfilling and sustainable careers.

For long term unemployed people welfare reforms will provide a much more responsive benefits system and personalised back to work support.

Universal Credit will deliver a real time tax and benefits system, making it much easier for unemployed people to take short term, flexible jobs like those offered at entry level.

At the same time the new Work Programme will provide tailored support for people finding it difficult to find work.

This support is being delivered by private providers who are paid by results.

The emphasis is on sustainable employment with providers earning more money the longer they support someone to stay in work – up to £13,700 over two years in some of the hardest to help cases.

We have not dictated to providers how they should provide support so that they are free to use whatever methods they know work and to develop innovative new ways to improve existing methods of support.

However, we know from this report and our own experience that often providers choose to develop effective relationships with employers so that they are able to more accurately match the right candidate to the right job.

And the emphasis on sustainable employment means that providers will be incentivised to offer some form of in-work support.

This could reduce the risk to employers of hiring some of the harder to help, long term unemployed as there will be some level of consistent support available to the new employee.

There are a number of further steps Government is taking to tackle this issue.

For example, over the summer we hope to launch the new sector based work academies.

These are sector specific packages of training and work experience with a guaranteed interview at the end.

They are focused in sectors that have high volumes of vacancies – often at entry level – and included accredited qualifications.

Government is providing practical solutions, we are pulling all the levers we can but it must be a combined effort.

We need employers to work with us to ensure training actually provides the skills they need.

We need training providers and employers to work closely to design and deliver training and work experience packages.

We need educational reform so young people are able to gain qualifications that are worth something to both students and potential employers.

But most of all we need to restore PRIDE in our young people and long term unemployed, that’s about societal change and is a task we all share.