Move to get people off benefits and into work as Plymouth claimants soar

MP Johnny Mercer
MP Johnny Mercer -Credit:Wiktor Szymanowicz/REX/Shutterstock

A Plymouth MP has welcomed the recent reforms by the government to ensure the welfare system supports more people off benefits and into work. Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View has spoken after the city has seen a surge in the number of people claiming Universal Credit sickness benefit.

The reforms, announced just over a week ago, will change the rules so that someone working less than half of a full-time week will have to look for more work, while strengthening the sanctions regime and ensuring unemployment benefits remain a safety net, not a lifestyle choice. The government will also stop people being automatically written off as not fit for work, and review and reform our disability benefit system.

Mr Mercer has responded after Labour said the rise in Universal Credit claims shows the Tory Government is “too divided and too incompetent” to get Britain working.

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Fred Thomas, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Plymouth Moor View accused the Tories of failing on the economy, because they have failed on work. He said 2.7million people, a near record high, are now out of work due to long-term sickness.

Mr Mercer has highlighted that under the previous Labour the welfare system was broken with claimants receiving as much as £100,000 per year, punished work with claimants losing over £9 for every £10 earned, rose the bill for tax credits by 67% to £30bn, and trapped millions in an endless benefits cycle.

Mr Mercer said: "Labour's record on benefits is disastrous; millions trapped on benefits being punished for working, spiralling costs, and one of the worst rates of children growing up in workless households in Europe.

"However, the Government understand the importance of making work pay and creating a welfare state which acts as a safety net, not a lifestyle choice. Welfare reforms have helped 2.2 million more people into work and brought 1.1 million out of poverty in the last decade. We should of course take care of the most vulnerable in our society, but those who can work should.

"I care passionately in supporting those who are able to get back into work. I regularly meet with Plymouth's Job Centre, Seetec Plus and Citizens Advice to find local solutions to unemployment and benefits. I successfully lobbied government to improve the local housing allowance and removed the Universal Credit phone line cost. A Labour Government would undo all of this hard-won progress.

"I am always at hand to help my constituents with the challenges they might face in getting back to work. The best ways to get it touch are by emailing, calling 01752 876979, or attending a drop-in with my caseworker team. These sessions run every Thursday between 2pm and 4pm at my constituency office in St Budeaux."