Supporting Truro & Falmouth residents back into work

I am committed to making sure that families get the right support that they need to get on and improve their lives.  Universal Credit lies at the heart of this by helping those who can work into work, while caring for those who cannot.  And it is working because Universal Credit claimants are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

Universal Credit replaces the six main out-of-work benefits with one monthly payment.  It’s available to all single new jobseekers across the country and from yesterday it has opened up to families, couples and disabled people in Truro who make a new claim for a working-age benefit.  It will be available throughout Cornwall in the following weeks.

I understand how being unemployed or asking for help can be a worrying time.  That’s why I want reassure people in Truro about the support they can get under Universal Credit, and how our local Jobcentre work coaches are there to help.

Universal Credit is changing the culture of welfare support by mirroring the world of work.  It is paid in arrears as a monthly single payment directly into people’s accounts in the way that many people’s salaries are.  It gradually reduces the more someone earns; meaning people experience the financial gains of doing any paid employment, which frequently did not happen under the old system because of its perverse disincentives to taking up more work, like the 16-hour rule.

Universal Credit is a digitalised service, as one would expect today.  Claimants who are looking for work continue to get face-to-face support from their work coach at their local Jobcentre. But more than that, every claimant also has a case manager who helps with the day-to-day practicalities of their claim, and communicates through two-way conversations via an online Universal Credit journal, by text message, email, and over the telephone.

The majority of people are comfortable with managing their Universal Credit claim, but we understand that for some people it is a big change and they will need extra help.

For people who need support before their first payment, advance payments of 100% are available up front and are paid within five working days and on the first day if necessary. We also continue to pay people’s housing benefit for two weeks when they make a claim to Universal Credit. And arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords.

Our Jobcentre work coaches are there to provide support to help people move back into work, and any extra help people need with their Universal Credit claim.

First published in the West Briton 24/08/18

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Universal Credit lies at heart of improving people’s lives

The employment rate in the South West is fantastic – at 79.3% it is well above the national rate of 75.6%. And behind those figures, there are people from all walks of
life, from Land’s End in Cornwall to Taunton in Somerset, working hard for themselves
and their families and contributing to the success of our country.

Universal Credit replaces the six main out-of-work benefits with one monthly payment. It lies at the heart of our reforms to help people improve their lives by prove their lives, by
helping people into work while caring for those that cannot.

It is available to all single new jobseekers across the country, and from today it will open up to families, couples and disabled people in Truro, St Austell, Bodmin and Newquay who make a new claim to a working-age benefit.

I understand how being unemployed or asking for help can be a worrying time. That’s  why I want reassure people in these areas about the support they can get under Universal Credit, and how our local Jobcentre Plus work coaches are there to help.

At its heart lies one very simple goal. Universal Credit is designed to help people improve their lives, and the lives of their families, through employment until they can be financially independent, while having the right care in place for those who cannot work.

Universal Credit is changing the culture of welfare support by mirroring the world
of work. It is paid in arrears as a monthly single payment directly into people’s accounts
as many people’s salaries are. It gradually reduces the more someone earns; meaning
people experience the financial gains of doing any paid employment, which frequently
did not happen under the old system because of its perverse disincentives to taking up more work, like the 16-hour rule.

Universal Credit is a digitalised service, as one would expect today. Claimants who
are looking for work continue to get face-to-face support from their work coach at their
local Jobcentre, But more than that, every claimant also has a case manager who helps
with the day-to-day practicalities of their claim, and communicates through two-way
conversations via an online Universal Credit journal, by text message and email, and
over the telephone too. The majority of people are comfortable managing their Universal
Credit claim, but we understand that for some people it is a big change.

For people who need support before their first payment, advance payments of 100% are available up front and are paid within five working days and on the first day if necessary. We also continue to pay people’s housing benefit for two weeks when they
make a claim to Universal Credit. And arrangements can be made to pay rent direct
to landlords.

Our Jobcentre work coaches are there to provide support to help people move back into work, and any extra help people need with their Universal Credit claim.

We are committed to making sure families in Cornwall and across the country
get the right support they need to get on and improve their lives. Universal Credit
lies at the heart of that by helping those that can into work, while caring for those
that cannot. And it is working with Universal Credit claimants moving into work
faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

First published in the Western Morning News 23/05/18

Celebrating record levels of employment and rising incomes in Cornwall

Record levels of people of all ages and backgrounds are in employment in Cornwall. That is good news as we know that good work is good for our health and wellbeing. Thanks to the government’s introduction of the Living Wage, increases in the minimum wage and increases in the personal allowance, people on the lowest wages are seeing their incomes rise well ahead of inflation. While the majority of jobs created since 2010 are full time, permanent jobs, there is still more to be done to enable people to make progress in work.

For people who have been working for sometime, it is all too easy for skills not to keep pace with change. People sometimes tell me that they would like to change careers but don’t know how to get the necessary qualifications or don’t know how they can fit learning and earning into their busy lives. It can be difficult to learn new skills enabling a change of career and occupation.

For people who have taken time out to care for adults or children, getting back into work can feel daunting. I remember that feeling!

Since being elected in 2010, I have been making the case to Ministers that we need to do more to help more adults back into the classroom. I was pleased that last week a new £11.7million fund investing in a range of projects to help more adults access learning new skills has been announced.

The Flexible Learning Fund will support 32 innovative projects across England to encourage more people to take part in new training or courses that will help them progress in current employment or secure a new job.

Projects are aimed at a range of skill levels – teaching beginners all the way through to those who already have a good understanding of a topic. Exciting projects include supporting IT users to gain new skills in cyber security, training older workers and people whose jobs are affected by the need for greater digital skills, and increasing the maths skills and confidence of adults already in work.

It can be difficult for people to fit training around their busy lives. This funding aims to find out how education providers and employers can work together to better meet the needs of adults of all ages, who want the opportunity to learn important new skills and change their lives. To break the barriers that prevent adults from returning to learning, on-line learning environments will be funded to deliver a wide range of qualifications, for example Health and Social Care leadership qualifications in flexible and accessible ways.

National Numeracy will work with 6 partners including the John Lewis Partnership, Civil Service Learning and KPMG to deliver basic numeracy skills via an online delivery method either with employers or through direct digital engagement with learners. The project will be aimed at those in work who are looking to upskill and gain confidence in numeracy.

Access to great learning opportunities are essential for people throughout our lives.

First published in the West Briton 29/03/18

Celebrating record levels of disabled people in employment

While we have near record levels of people in employment, too many disabled people are missing out. We need to close the gap between the number of disabled people who want to work and the opportunities available to do so – not just to benefit those who have the skills and desire to work, but also to ensure employers are not missing out on a huge pool of talent.

Many employers already have a strong track record in this area, which is why we want to encourage a business to business approach where organisations can learn from each other.

A range of government support is on offer from our Access to Work service, which provides disabled people with support or adjustments they need in the workplace, to the Disability Confident scheme, which helps employers do more to recruit and retain disabled workers. To date more than 5,000 employers have signed up to Disability Confident. Across the country, almost 600,000 disabled people have entered work in the last four years. I’m determined to build on this so that everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential.

Last week I helped launch our ten year vision to see one million more disabled people work. Our new Work and Health Programme brings together employers, the welfare system and health services and will not only support disabled people and people with health conditions who want to enter work, but also focus on supporting them to stay in work. No two people are the same and the Health and Work Programme will be testing and evaluating new approaches to find out what works best.

The change needed is not one Government can deliver alone. We all have a part to play to enable disabled people to play as full a part in our community as possible.

First published in the West Briton

Lighting the Beacon in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Working with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Business we have organised the upcoming event “Lighting the Beacon in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly”.

The event aims to build confidence amongst businesses to help them to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce. In particular, we would like to help them employ those who have disabilities or who are long-term unemployed but would like to find employment. The free event is being held at Truro and Penwith College in Truro on Thursday 26th October from 9.30 am until 1pm.

The event will be a great opportunity to meet likeminded businesses and skills providers, including Job Centre Plus, and the new Skills Access Hub team as part of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub.

While there are great examples of inclusive, local employers, the fact remains that there are still too many local people who would like to work but are currently excluded from doing so. I very much hope that all local businesses will come along and consider the benefits of inclusive employment for their business.

Whilst Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are leading on the inclusive growth agenda, these long term issues affecting growth in our region can only be tackled by working in collaboration. This event will be the starting point in working together with key stakeholders and businesses, to shape an action plan as to how Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly can be a ‘beacon’ region leading the way on inclusive growth.

If you are interested in the event please use the following link to find out more and to book a place:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lighting-the-beacon-in-cornwall-and-isles-of-scilly-tickets-37688677850

First published in the West Briton

Looking Back at 2016

2016 will be remembered as the year Britain chose to leave the European Union and for the U.S. Presidential Election, the results of which challenged conventional expectations. I will remember saying good bye to David Cameron, who was a good friend to Cornwall and welcoming Teresa May on her first visit to Cornwall as our new Prime Minister.

2016 has seen some important successes for our constituency, too many to list in the 300 words permitted! Ensuring local people have genuinely affordable, decent homes to rent or buy remains a top priority. We have made progress including: enabling enforcement of improved housing standards; reduced costs for tenants; more affordable homes for local people.

I was delighted to secure the commitment from Government that stamp duty on the sale of second homes will be used to support more community led housing. Cornwall Community Land Trust will be receiving money to build up their capacity to help more local people into new homes and new trusts could bring old buildings into use for homes.

Improved funding of our vital public services, including education and policing depends on a strong economy and growing businesses. I am pleased that we have record numbers of men and women of all ages in employment here. While there is more to do, wages are rising and income taxes are falling.

Local businesses are making good use of the Cornwall Growth Hub that was set up this year to provide a one stop advise and support service for local businesses.

One area that is not doing as well as I would like is our local NHS and social care services. Despite the hard work of those on the front line, increased resources and more local decision making, ensuring better progress in 2017 is essential.

Happy New Year!

First published in the West Briton 28/12/16

Employment in Truro & Falmouth

Last week we learned that unemployment in Truro & Falmouth, the number of people claiming the key out of work benefits, has fallen by 565 – a 42 per cent drop – since 2010.

As well as unemployment continuing to run at a 10-year low, the number of women in work is at a record high and youth unemployment is also significantly reduced. Across the country, there are 31.8 million people in work, up by 2.7 million since 2010 – that’s well over 1,000 jobs created on average every day – and average wages excluding bonuses grew by 2.6 per cent over the last year.

This is good news but there is more to do to help people of all backgrounds and abilities into work. Also to help people already working into more secure and better paid employment opportunities.

Building an economy that works for everyone means making sure everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential, providing the security of a regular income so they can provide for themselves and their family.

That includes investing in education and skills training for people of all ages. Thanks to the dedication of teachers in our local schools we are saw continued progress in 2016. Truro & Penwith College is one of the best in the country. Local employers are embracing apprenticeships and opportunities to work with graduates from our local universities.

I will continue to do all that I can to support improved educational opportunities.

Having campaigned for many years for a revision of the funding formula used to allocate resources to our local schools, I was pleased last week that the Government launched a consultation that recognises the challenges for schools in sparsely populated and relatively deprived communities like ours. I hope all schools will participate in this consultation to help me secure fairer funding.

Published in the West Briton 21/12/16