Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
Thanks to a Conservative Government, we now have almost full employment in this country. For a number of people who claim unemployment benefits, their mental health is a barrier to getting work. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give us that the universal credit system will either help people with low-level mental health conditions to get back into work, or give them the support they need for their future?
My right hon. Friend makes a good point. I was about to give an illustration of the way universal credit can work involving a claimant with learning difficulties, who was out of work when he came to the jobcentre. His work coach provided tailored support, building his confidence and capability. That man is now in work. He told us that he is proud of himself for getting into work, and that he did not think it would have been possible without universal credit. He is now looking forward to the future. That personalised support, tailored to individual circumstances, is much more widely available.
Let me give another example. A university graduate had not previously had a job but was desperate to get into work. Her work coach helped to build her skills—interview skills and application writing—and she was soon successful in gaining a 16-hours a week job. When she was offered overtime, the work coach supported the claimant flexibly, rescheduling her Jobcentre Plus appointments so they did not clash with her new hours. The claimant could accept the overtime, confident that she would remain on universal credit and continue to be supported by her work coach.
Those are true testimonies of the powerful potential of the reform to change lives for the better.
My right hon. Friend and I are about the same age. Does he share my concern that anyone who is younger than us and listening to the debate might labour—no pun intended—under the misapprehension that, before the election of a Conservative Government in 2010, the previous system was perfect, when it has been bedevilled by flaws for decades? That is why this simplified system, when all the bumps have been ironed out, is welcome.
Mr Duncan Smith
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has borne the years better than me. However, I will do anything for a kind look—[Laughter.] Particularly from my right hon. Friend.