A RECENT visit to the Taunton Job Centre filled me with admiration for its dedicated and highly professional staff who deserve a thank you for all that they do for our community.

Being one of the first ‘rural’ areas in the country to roll out the new support system, Universal Credit (UC), has brought its challenges but staff across the board were positive about the progress that has been made, reporting that 6,390 new claimants (approximately 3,000 households) had come through the system; 98 per cent who are paid on time with a great many people helped into work, often with life-changing consequences.

The team have been actively involved in bringing about improvements to the system (as have I as your MP) and feedback continues. As a result extra support has been provided for those with disabilities, vulnerable young people and families and a one-month advance loan to claimants who may need it is available with budgeting advice.

The overarching ethos of UC is to replace the previous complex benefits system run by three different organisations with a single system focusing on moving those who are able to work into work, with a comprehensive system of support and advice to back this up. Crucially, support is always there for those unable to work.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is the largest government department with a £179bn budget. In my new role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to The Secretary of State (SoS) for Work & Pensions, Esther McVey (herself a Barnardos child), I was proud to support her at this week’s Conservative Party Conference.

Having met with our local CAB last week to discuss the invaluable advice they provide for UC claimants and concerns over forthcoming council cuts to their budget, I have been bringing this to the attention of the SoS.

She was obviously listening as she consequently announced, at the Conference, a new, national partnership with CAB to deliver universal support across the UK, worth £39m from 2019.

This should help the most vulnerable get timely access to UC providing budgeting advice and developing their digital skills.

As ever, my door is always open if you have UC issues, so please let me know at rebecca.pow.mp@parliament.uk.