Talks are being held ahead of the Budget in an effort to ease the pressure on Universal Credit claimants, amid mounting anger over the impact of the flagship welfare reform on the poorest.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said she has held discussions with Chancellor Philip Hammond following concerns from MPs across the political spectrum over reports that some families could lose as much as £200 per month in benefits.
The controversial Universal Credit (UC) scheme is being rolled out nationally following trials in a number of local authority areas.
Facing questions in the House of Commons yesterday, Ms McVey was told that women had been forced into sex work by the introduction of UC, and was urged to halt the reforms.
Frank Field, the independent MP who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, said the introduction of UC is “not going as well” as is made out.
Labour also reiterated demands to pause UC, while Tory MPs expressed a desire for extra funding during a Commons question session dominated by the issue.
“Some women have taken to the red light district for the first time,” Mr Field said, asking Ms McVey “come to Birkenhead and meet those women’s organisations and the police who are worried about women’s security being pushed into this position”.
The minister told Mr Field to inform the women that there are “record job vacancies”.
Ms McVey also told MPs that they will “know what those discussions will be” with Mr Hammond in the upcoming Budget.
Asked by the SNP’s work and pensions spokesman Neil Gray if she has asked the Chancellor for more money for UC ahead of the Budget, Ms McVey refused to give details.
But she said: “What he can know is I am championing Universal Credit to make sure that it works the best it can possibly work. Take from that as he will.”
Conservative Heidi Allen asked Ms McVey if she was aware “how much support she has on this side of the House for our desire to see extra funding put in the Budget to restore the work allowances where they should be”.
Ms McVey said she knew “all members of the House want to ensure that Universal Credit works for people who are claiming the benefit”.
Mr Gray said the government “must call an immediate halt to the disastrous roll-out of UC and reverse the damaging cuts that have pushed so many families into poverty and crisis”.