My colleagues and I at the DWP have frequent discussions with GEO Ministers on a wide range of issues. Throughout this pandemic the Government have sought to protect jobs and incomes, spending billions on strengthening welfare support for those most in need. Our long-term ambition is to level up across the United Kingdom, helping people back into work as quickly as possible, based on clear evidence of the importance of work in tackling poverty.
Child poverty is a stain on our nation, and hon. Members on both sides of the House should commit to working together to eradicate it. The Minister will know that, before the pandemic, child poverty was projected to increase to 5.2 million by 2022, a disastrous thing for those children and something that will significantly damage life opportunities. What steps is he taking now to do everything possible to ensure this prediction does not come true?
As far as I am concerned, one child in poverty is one child too many. All evidence suggests that work is the best route out of poverty for families, and that is why we are supporting parents into work with our £30 billion plan for jobs and childcare offer. We recognise that times are tough for so many at the moment, which is why we have boosted our welfare system by over £7 billion this year to support those facing the most financial disruption.
May I draw the Minister’s attention to research by the Welsh gender equality charity Chwarae Teg that shows that women are twice as likely to be key workers in Wales, and that the effects of sector shut- downs, business closures and unemployment are falling disproportionately on women, who are more likely to lose their job in the pandemic? Will the Minister study the report and tell the House what practical steps the Government are taking to help them?
The female employment rate is at 72% and the female unemployment rate is at 4.7%. This is an issue we take incredibly seriously, not least the Minister for Employment, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies), who leads on this important work. I will, of course, study the report carefully, as will the Minister for Employment.