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Social Mobility

Volume 641: debated on Monday 21 May 2018

The Department for Work and Pensions plays a vital role in social mobility, including by helping people to enter the labour market or to progress in work and earnings. The number of people in employment across the country is at a record 32.34 million, and that includes historically under-represented groups, among them disabled people. As a consequence, we have reduced the number of children living in workless households by 600,000.

Training opportunities are vital to boosting social mobility, because they help to get people into work. What is the Secretary of State doing to work with recruitment agencies, such as Prime Appointments in Witham, to enable more people to get into work, especially those in part-time work or on universal credit?

My right hon. Friend is living proof of social mobility—her family came here from Uganda, started a newsagents and expanded their business—and is right to ask: how can we get people into a job, and how can we help with recruitment and apprenticeships? I am working with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation to look at those opportunities and also with the Secretary of State for Education—that is where responsibility for apprenticeships is held, but we will do all we can to support my right hon. Friend.

In Stoke-on-Trent, one of the best ways of achieving social mobility is through our wonderful further education system, so will the Secretary of State please impress upon her colleagues at the Department for Education that properly funded further education, whether that be sixth-form colleges or other establishments, is needed and that they must make sure it is provided?

I will send the hon. Gentleman’s message to the Department for Education, but in this Department we do as much as we can, whether through traineeships or sector-based work academies, to support young people. It is about choice: do they want a job, an apprenticeship or further education?

Helping more carers to get into work and stay in work would certainly boost social mobility in the UK. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for coming to Shipley to visit Carers’ Resource. What progress has been made on developing a kitemark for employers to help more carers get into work and stay in work?

My hon. Friend raises a very good point: how do we best support carers, who do a vital job to support other people? When I visited his constituency and Carers’ Resource and met some of its carers, they told me they wanted a kitemark—they wanted to know which was a good business, who they could work for, who was deploying best practice. The Department of Health and Social Care is working on this with Carers UK, but we are also starting a new group between Departments, and I encourage Carers’ Resource to take part.

One of the hardest-to-reach groups of children are those living in kinship care with chaotic family relationships: one moment they might be with their real parents, the next they might be being looked after. What discussions is the Secretary of State having with the children’s Minister to make sure they do not slip through the net?

The hon. Lady is right about kinship care and to ask how we can support kinship carers and those children, which is why I was pleased to be able to say that through tax credits we would be maintaining our vital support for kinship carers. I am more than happy to speak to other Ministers to ensure we give those children and families the best support we can.