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Child Poverty: Covid-19

Volume 682: debated on Monday 19 October 2020

What recent assessment she has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on levels of child poverty. (907671)

This Government’s unprecedented support package has supported the poorest working households the most, with Her Majesty’s Treasury’s analysis showing that the poorest 10% of working households have seen no income reduction, owing to the fast action taken by this Government in responding to the pandemic, including a £9.3 billion injection into the welfare system.

The problem with the Minister’s answer is that this crisis is only revealing problems with policies that we knew were there already. Members of this House are against it; members of faith communities are against it; leading charities are against it; and now Marcus Rashford is campaigning against it. So what is the Minister going to do to end the two-child policy for universal credit once and for all?

The two-child policy in universal credit is one of fundamental fairness, and it means that those who are in receipt of benefits should be in the same position as those who are not. I am not a particular football fan, but I certainly know Marcus Rashford’s name now, and I congratulate him on his MBE. We welcome the establishment of the taskforce and will carefully consider its recommendations as we approach the spending review.

We already know that child poverty rates have been rising across north-west England, and that is before the economic impact of the restrictions consequent upon tier 3. The Chancellor talks about the way that the job support scheme and universal credit protect income, saying that it leaves households with 90% of their income, but many households will get nothing like that, and those who lose their jobs entirely sometimes go on to universal credit at 30% of income. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of the restrictions on child poverty in the north-west and how that compares with a local furlough scheme that protects all jobs that are at risk?

I will look carefully at the points that the hon. Lady raises, but I stress that this Government have implemented an unprecedented support package, including the job retention scheme and the self-employment income support scheme, which has helped families to cope with the financial impact of covid-19. For those most in need, we strengthened the welfare system with an additional £9 billion this year. That is in addition to the around £5 billion increase to benefit rates as part of the 2020-21 uprating, including around £400 million more on children’s benefits.