7. What assessment his Department has made of the effect of recent changes to benefits on the number of children living in poverty.
We know that work is the best route out of poverty. The number of people in work is at a record high and the number of children living in a household where no one works has fallen by 450,000 since 2010.
My constituency has the third highest level of child poverty in the country, and 13,600 families currently receive tax credits, leaving them vulnerable to the Government’s cuts to universal credit. In his aborted bid for the Tory leadership, the Secretary of State said that he had a
“strong grasp of…the social and economic divisions in our country”.
If that is true, does he agree that cuts to universal credit will only compound the social and economic divisions in our country? Will he now commit to reversing those changes so that our children do not have to pay the price of his Government’s political choices?
I absolutely stand by what I said. There was a massive expansion of tax credits under the previous Labour Government, but it did not do a single thing to tackle the underlying causes of poverty. Universal credit is just one part of what we are doing. There is the national living wage, which the Labour party used to support at one time, and the increase in personal allowances. We are in the business of transforming the landscape for people on low incomes. That is why the figures are moving in the right direction.
Whatever the recent changes to benefits, they do not seem to have dealt with the big issue of personal independence payments—PIP. I recently had to deal with a horrendous case in which an individual in my constituency should have received PIP, but did not and had to go through the appeal process. I wrote to the Minister and the Government just ignored it. What are the Government doing to ensure that people who should be in receipt of PIP get it early and are not left to wallow while waiting for a long time, as they have been recently?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People or I will be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss that specific case. As for the broader principles behind the question, we are improving the PIP process, speeding up applications, decisions and appeals. If the hon. Gentleman has specific concerns, I would be happy to meet him to discuss them further.