Many of you have contacted me recently about changes to Universal Credit and their impact on working families and incentives to work.

Universal Credit is a major reform to our welfare system which is restoring the value of work, making sure it always pays to work and, crucially, that it pays to work more. Over 800,000 people have now made a claim for Universal Credit, with an average of more than 12,500 new claims being made every week.

Simplifying the benefits system by merging the main working-age benefits into a single payment, with a single taper rate, means claimants can be confident that they will always be better off when they move into work or increase their hours or earnings. Evidence is already showing that people move into work faster under Universal Credit: for every 100 people who find work under Jobseeker's Allowance, 113 Universal Credit claimants move into a job.

While changes have been necessary to reform the system of 'work allowances' in Universal Credit, it is important to see this as part of a wider package of measures which together are designed to move us towards a lower welfare, lower tax, higher wage economy.

For example, the introduction of the National Living Wage is delivering a pay rise for millions of low paid workers, and people are keeping more of what they earn due to increases in their income tax personal allowance. The lowest paid workers saw their pay go up by the most last year - by over 6 per cent and well above inflation.

Working parents are also benefitting from increased support with childcare costs. Up to 85 per cent of a family's childcare costs is now supported, up to a monthly cap, and this is compared to the 70 per cent covered under tax credits.  Under Universal Credit there is also no longer a requirement for claimants to work at least 16 hours per week to access childcare support. For parents of 3-and-4-year-olds, working more than 16 hours will mean they qualify for the Government's new free childcare offer of 30 hours per week. These measures mean support for working parents is being substantially increased under Universal Credit, and will make it easier for claimants to combine work with raising a family.

Transitional protections are in place for people who are transferred to Universal Credit from an existing claim, so that people will not see a cash fall in their benefit entitlement. This transitional protection is not reduced when claimants increase their earnings, ensuring that work incentives are maintained.

I hope you are reassured by the fact that around half of all spending on welfare and public services is still going to the poorest 40 per cent of households, similar to the distribution in 2010. The best-off fifth of households will also be paying a greater proportion of taxes at the end of this Parliament than in 2010.

Finally, you may be interested to read the comments of the Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt MP, in response to a debate on the changes to Universal Credit on 17 November here: http://tinyurl.com/jepk5au

Thank you for your interest in this – do write to me directly if you wish to take up any of these points.