Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd visited Lancaster Job Centre this week to talk to work coaches and people receiving Universal Credit.
The MP visited Job Centres in Southport and Preston prior to coming to Lancaster, where she said her role is the “ensure what the government initiatated in being delivered on the ground”.
She said of Universal Credit: “It’s been good overall, and people now get a very personal service.
“People have been engaged and happy to talk to me.
“Universal Credit replaces six seperate benefits, and I think it’s a great system.
“I learned that it’s effective when I spoke to the work coaches, and they tell me how much better it is compared to the previous system.
“I know it faced difficulties initially, the money wasn’t being paid on time, and we’ve acknowledged that it’s been difficult for people to wait.
“We’ve introduced advances, and housing benefit is paid in the middle of the month.
“The reason we are paying Universal Credit at the end of the month is to replicate payments that people would get in work, to get them used to that system.
“I speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) both locally and nationally, as we’ve commissioned them as a government to provide support so that people can manage their applications.”
Ms Rudd also said she had written to Lancaster MP Cat Smith, after Ms Smith said that four in ten constituents visiting her with problems over Universal Credit have threatened suicide.
Ms Rudd said: “It was very upsetting to read what she said. I’ve asked her to give me the details.
“I urge anyone who’s experiencing that to come and meet the work coaches at the Job Centre.
“The people here have a really personal and caring approach to helping people into work.
“I think it’s a mistake for politicians to dwell on this and apportion it to one thing.
“There’s help available.”
Ms Rudd said that “it must be a good thing that we have record levels of employment”, after the government released new data showing 76.1 per cent of people, or 32.39m, now in work.
“There’s some great employers locally and I want people to have fulfilling lives.
I hope that after starting on lower wages, people can start to earn more.
“The majority of new jobs are full time, and only around two per cent are zero hours. But that does serve an important purpose.
“Women returning to work after having children for example need flexibility.
“It can be what people want. This is the type of economy we have now.
“It makes people more flexible but of course I recognise zero hours contracts aren’t for everybody.”
The Office for National Statistics say that the number of people in employment in the UK is measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and consists of people aged 16 years and over who did one hour or more of paid work per week and those who had a job that they were temporarily away from (for example, because they were on holiday or off sick).
The largest two categories within employment are employees and self-employed people; in recent years these two categories have accounted for over 99 per cent of all people in employment.