IT has been a very busy month locally, spending time with businesses, charities, community organisations and councillors across our constituency, including in Drewsteignton, South Zeal, Okehampton, Hatherleigh, Crediton, Ashburton, Chudleigh and Thorverton, writes MP Mel Stride.

But I have also been busy in Westminster, working on key welfare reforms as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. 

These reforms are building on the work that has already been done since 2010 to fix a welfare system that had been left broken. 

During Labour’s 13 years in office the number of households where no-one had ever worked doubled, and two million children were growing up in households were neither parent had ever worked. 

Youth unemployment rose by 45%, leaving a generation of young people at risk of not fulfilling their potential. There was insufficient support to help those who were trying to get a job and not enough action to help people off benefits and into work.

Since 2010 there are now 4 million more people in work, 1 million fewer people living in poverty, 400,000 fewer children living in poverty, 700,000 fewer children living in a workless household and 200,000 fewer pensioners in poverty. While that’s a record to be proud of, there’s a huge amount more to do.

That is why at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) I am driving further reforms to help more people into employment. This includes a more supportive approach to claimants at particular risk of becoming long-term unemployed. 

We are offering more frequent contact with job coaches, more help with things like CV-writing, gaining interviews and securing jobs while also sanctioning the minority who persistently fail to engage with the support on offer or fail to attend job interviews.

We are also doing more than ever before to help people with health problems and disabilities who want to work, to overcome barriers to employment through £2 billion of investment. 

This includes a game-changing new programme, Universal Support, which will place people into work with a personal adviser providing wraparound support for up to a year while they find their feet.

Another area of unfairness that I’m determined to address is parents who refuse to do the right thing by financially supporting their own children. In the vast majority of cases it is mums that suffer when dads shirk their responsibility to pay child maintenance. 

We already enforce compliance wherever we can, but cases are taking too long. So I am fast-tracking the enforcement process by removing the need to go through the courts. 

This will slash a process that is taking six months, to just six weeks. We will also make it easier for mums who aren’t receiving the money that they should be, to have the Child Maintenance Service collect payment directly, and we will get rid of the application fee for using that service.