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New Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Yesterday's cabinet reshuffle saw Esther McVey become the fifth work and pensions secretary in five years. The role carries overall responsibility for the Department of Work and Pensions, including social security benefits such as Universal Credit. With no Assembly sitting in Northern Ireland at the moment, many of the policy decisions being taken in relation to social security matters are taken at a Westminster level with limited opportunity for local elected representatives, advisory groups or members of the public to input into any oversight procedures. 

Tackling Universal Credit changes

The new Secretary of State will be responsible for overseeing the changes to Universal Credit already announced in the Autumn budget 2017, although no legislation has yet been enacted. The Social Security Advisory Committee met on 13 December to discuss the provisions in the Unviersal Credit and Miscellaneous Amendmentsw Regulations 2018. These regulations provide for amendments to the GB regulations, but Northern Ireland will require separate legislation before changes can be made to the system of advances or before waiting days can be abolished. During the meeting the committee confirmed that the proposal to abolish waiting days in UC could proceed without formal reference but felt that further measures, specifically the plan to allow for run-on payments of Housing Benefit where a claimant transfer to Universal Credit required formal reference. The Committee does not intend to carry out a public consultation, but will draft a report for the new Secretary of State with its recommendations in respect of this change. 

Changes at DCLG

Although Sajid Javid remains Secretary of State at DCLG, this department has been renamed to the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Renaming this department signifies the renewed focus on housing in Great Britain, a focus which intensified after the Grenfell fire in 2017, with some organisations asking why the housing portfolio was not a Cabinet position. Mr Javid said "Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this government and so I’m delighted the Prime Minister has asked me to serve in this role. The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England".

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