Skip to main content

Universal Credit (Child Care)

Volume 529: debated on Monday 13 June 2011

2. Whether his plans for universal credit will ensure that people are better off in work after payment of child care costs. (58782)

We recognise the vital role that child care plays in supporting parents into work. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we have set out a consultative process with some options for child care within universal credit, as I said we would. Alongside that, we have committed to spend all the money available in the current system for child care. It remains our intention that everyone moving into work will be better off when child care is included. People who transition into work will certainly be better off than under the current system.

Will the Secretary of State ensure that parents who work more than 16 hours a week will continue to get child care support to allow them to continue in work?

If the hon. Gentleman looks at our consultation, he will see that our plan is to spread the money to ensure that parents who choose to work for any number of hours—not just 16 hours, but across the board—can go into work and get the necessary support. I therefore think that the answer to the question is yes, and we are also keen to support parents who work fewer hours.

Will the Secretary of State tell the House what effect universal credit will have on child poverty and wider forms of poverty?

We estimate that universal credit as a static system, not even taking into account any dynamic effect, will lift 900,000 people out of poverty, about 350,000 of whom will be children. It is worth remembering that under the present child care systems that people have spoken about, at least 100,000 people do not get the child care for which they are eligible. Under universal credit, the take-up will be higher, so it will have a better effect.

The Secretary of State is right to recognise that support for child care is key to whether parents are better off in work or out of work. However, he promised the Welfare Reform Public Bill Committee that the Government’s proposals on child care support would be available before the Bill left Committee. That promise has been broken; he has simply been able to provide only a discussion of the options. When will he get a grip and come up with a policy?

I will get a grip the moment the right hon. Gentleman’s team decide whether they are in favour of the Bill or against it. I gather that the Leader of the Opposition has today moved like a wriggly worm and decided that he is both for and against it, which is really not surprising. The point of bringing forward our proposals is that the right hon. Gentleman and everybody else will have a chance to look at them and decide whether they agree with them. After the consultation, we will make it clear what our final proposals are. I think that that is fair. Last time, he complained that we did not consult him—he ought to make his mind up.