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Family Stability

Volume 607: debated on Monday 14 March 2016

3. What assessment he has made of the effect of family stability on levels of poverty and on life chances. (904052)

15. What assessment he has made of the effect of family stability on levels of poverty and on life chances. (904065)

Our family stability review found that family instability is one of the main drivers of poverty, with unstable families more likely to have low incomes. That is why support for families is firmly at the heart of what we are doing in Government, such as doubling the funding for relationship support and doubling the amount of free childcare.

I welcome the Government’s determination to tackle the root causes of poverty. With respect to the doubling of funding for the relationship support scheme, what steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that the scheme can be accessed across the country by those who find it hardest to reach Government support and those who most need it?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I pay tribute to the huge amount of work he has done in backing this up and supporting it, and to the work he is doing at present to make sure it gets across to everybody. We are clear that any new or extended support that we provide—and we do—will need to be accessible and effective for all families, no matter where they are, with additional, complex needs, and more will be said on that when we bring forward the life chances strategy, to be published this summer. However, I can guarantee to him that it is the No. 1 priority to make sure everybody who needs support gets it.

Domestic violence is a stain on our society and often a cause of family instability. The Southern Domestic Abuse Service supports victims of domestic violence in Fareham, providing help in the community as an alternative to fleeing for refuge, which is often more costly and disruptive for the family. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Southern Domestic Abuse Service on the vital work it does?

I certainly will. I myself have been in the House on a ten-minute rule Bill to try to improve access to legal means to prosecute those who drive people to suicide, and I still believe this is something that could be done. I congratulate my hon. Friend and her remarkable charity. The Government have backed that work up, because we have now trebled the amount of money going to these organisations. I would be very happy, at some point, to meet them to congratulate them myself.

Would the Secretary of State like to confirm that if we look at the current poverty data, we see that there are almost no poor children in households where there is a parent in work and one parent is available for part-time work? What lesson does he draw from that?

I simply draw the lesson that we want more people to get back into work, because a household with work is a household that is more likely to be out of poverty. As usual, I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman, because he has done a huge amount of work on this issue. That lesson has been the drive behind everything that we have done—universal credit, our attempt to make sure that people get into work, and increased childcare to improve the possibility for more women to be in work to boost household income. However, universal credit also ensures that the first person into work is better off, and that therefore improves the likelihood of a household having more income and less chance of being in poverty.

If we are talking about cause and effect, I fear the question is the wrong way around. What I would like the Secretary of State to explain is how increasing levels of poverty under his Government are affecting family stability. Perhaps he might answer that question.

I just wish the hon. Gentleman would check the figures. There are 800,000 fewer people in relative poverty, including 300,000 fewer children. [Interruption.] I know it is always awkward for the Opposition when the facts do not bear out the rhetoric, but the reality is that the proportion on a relative low income is the lowest since the 1980s, income inequality is lower than it was when his Government left office, and household disposable income is £1,500 higher than two years ago. It is improving, but it is not good enough—we want to go further and further. All I can say is that we are working to get people into work and make sure that work always pays, as it is the route out of poverty. I just wish that instead of carping, Labour Members would one day support that.