Universal Credit is the biggest and most fundamental reform to the welfare state since its creation. It is a modern benefit based on the sound principles that 'work should always pay and those who need support receive it'. It is also fair to taxpayers. In 2010, the welfare bill cost each household £8,350. This was an increase of nearly £3,000 per household since 1997. Not only was this system failing to reward work, but it was the taxpayer bearing the burden.
I firmly believe that UC is a fair benefit that protects vulnerable claimants and ensures that work always pays. As UC is a simpler, more accurate benefit based on up-to-date information, it will provide people with their full entitlement. This means that 700,000 people will receive on average an extra £285 per month which they have not received under the existing system. Around a million disabled claimants will gain on average £100 a month through UC, because their award is higher through UC than legacy benefits.
The level of support for childcare costs within UC has increased from 70 per cent to 85 per cent, meaning a working family with 2 children can now receive up to £13,000 a year. This support is available to lone parents who are in paid work regardless of the number of hours they work. This helps ensure families with children are not disadvantaged when seeking work or looking to progress in their career, perhaps by taking on more hours. This is part of a wider package of increased childcare provision. This includes an extra 15 hours of free childcare available to working parents of 3 and 4 year olds since September 2017, and the gradual introduction of Tax-Free Childcare for working parents of children aged up to 12 and disabled children aged up to 17.
Rightly for a programme of this scale, the priority continues to be its safe and secure delivery. The controlled expansion of UC started in April 2013 and I am pleased that significant progress has been made to date. UC has been rolled out to every Job Centre in the country.