Earlier this week in Parliament I asked the Minister of State for Work & Pensions, Priti Patel MP, what support the Government was providing to young people seeking work.
Ms Patel responded saying,
“Tackling youth unemployment is a priority for this Government. We are determined that young people should not slip into a life on benefit. The Department for Work and Pensions provides a broad range of additional support for young people over and above the standard Jobcentre Plus offer, and that support is tailored to their needs.”
I followed up by asking specifically about measures to support those young people with learning and reading difficulties,
“I have been approached by several young people in my constituency who tell me that they find the process of applying for benefit, and the form-filling involved in seeking jobs, very complex. What specific actions is the Department taking to assist young people with these challenges?”
Ms Patel went on to say,
“For a start, all young people are screened at the beginning of their claim process to identify any barriers and the kind of support they need. Importantly, we provide options other than online and paper-based ones, such as telephone support or face-to-face interviews. If he would like me to look at any specific cases, I will be happy to discuss them with him.”
Following the oral response, the Department informed me that the introduction of Universal Credit would considerably reduce the need for multiple form filling and that the ‘Benefits Adviser’ site also provides help to people to work out what benefits and tax credits they are entitled to. In addition, external bodies also provide assistance with those struggling to understand and complete benefits forms including the Citizens Advice Bureau and 'Contact a Family'.
I welcome the fact that the Government aims to tailor support to jobseekers and benefits claimants dependent on their needs and that Universal Credit will reduce the volume of form filling. However, I do have some concerns that too many people with reading and learning difficulties still struggle with complicated forms and processes that may inhibit their ability to receive benefits they are genuinely entitled to. I will be taking the Minister up on the kind offer of having her look into the specific cases raised with me and dependent on the outcome of this may be looking to push the Government further on the issue.