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A House of Lords committee - including former Tory ministers - today calls for urgent reforms to make the benefit system "fit for purpose", saying it is particularly harmful to women, disabled people and the poorest.

The Lords Economic Affairs Committee has recommended:

Compulsory grants for all claimants, to offset the five-week for the first payment

Fewer punitive sanctions, which it says are "unfair and counterproductive"

More support to get claimants into training, given the depressed job market

Fixed payments for up to three months, to prevent fluctuations from month to month which leave claimants unable to budget.

A temporary £20-a-week rise in payments due to Covid to be made permanent

Writing off around £6bn of debt from the previous benefit system - which is charged to claimants at a rate of up to 30% a month "often at no fault of their own"