The nation is today uniting to toast an important milestone in the Prime Minister’s road map to recovery, with the long-awaited full reopening of the hospitality sector—thank God for that, given the rain we are suffering. The British public have stood up to the challenge of the pandemic and, while still being cautious, we need to get out there and spend our dosh. Let’s do our bit to support our communities, businesses and jobs, including more than 1 million workers who were furloughed and whom I hope we will now see back at work. As hospitality booms, I am sure that many more new kickstarters will be out there, able to hit the ground running.
Before the introduction of universal credit, single parents under the age of 25 received a higher rate of benefit payment in recognition of the increased costs of raising a child as a single parent, but that support has sadly not been extended to young single parents who are in receipt of universal credit. Does the Secretary of State agree with me and the assessment of One Parent Families Scotland that the omission amounts to a “young parent penalty”?
No; we took a sensible approach in having a differential rate for universal credit. Of course, if any of the hon. Lady’s constituents would like support to secure extra income via the child’s other parent, the Child Maintenance Service is there to help parents in such situations.
I have regular discussions with a range of Ministers across the Government about how best to get young people into work and thriving. We are already incentivising employers to hire young people through the kickstart scheme, through which we pay wages and the associated national insurance contributions for six months. It is a job creation scheme for the young people who are most at risk of long-term unemployment, building vital experience throughout the pandemic and giving them the confidence and skills needed to thrive in their future workplace.
The kickstart scheme was launched with much fanfare but it has been a bit of a flop, not to mention a headache for many businesses such as METERology in my constituency, which has been given a total runaround by the Secretary of State’s Department. Recent figures suggest that if the UK Government maintain a rate of 400 new employees starting each day, they should hit their target of 250,000 new jobs in 625 days—that is two years—so what more are they going to do to ensure that kickstart can really live up to its hype rather than just be a slogan for the Chancellor’s naff hoodie?
The hon. Gentleman is being ungracious. We are still at step 3 of the road map to recovery. Dare I say that the Scottish Government are putting up a roadblock to recovery by pursuing the whole independence agenda when they should be focused on the economic recovery? If the hon. Gentleman has specific constituency matters to raise, he is welcome to do so. As we go through the steps, we will see even more kickstarters taking full advantage of the generous support, which will help them and employers alike.
We are the first G7 country to legislate for net zero and lead the world in sustainable environmental investment, with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and more, all of which address climate change. It was a pleasure to visit Airedale Springs, which is a great company that is doing good business but with due regard to climate change. That is our approach to UK pensions as we build back greener.
Some 200,000 women who worked hard and paid their taxes all their lives have been underpaid their state pensions. It is an absolute scandal. I welcome the announcement that the DWP is trying to repay the money owed to these women, who have been so badly let down, but the repayments are being made far too slowly. Will the Minister confirm how many repayments were made last month and when the Department will finally speed up the process?
It is good to see that the hon. Gentleman survived the deputy leadership reshuffle.
The simple point is that the DWP formally commenced correction activity on 11 January this year, and I published a written ministerial statement on 4 February this year. We are clearing up a mess, the responsibility for much of which goes back to the changes made under the Labour Government in 2008, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware. Where underpayments are identified, the Department will contact the individual to inform them of the changes to their state pension amount and of any arrears payments that they will receive in accordance with the law.
As part of the Green Paper, we will be going further than the special rules for terminal illness evaluation to look at the principles of extending the severe health condition criteria to remove unnecessary assessments and reviews.
I thank the hon. Lady for pointing out the great opportunities of apprenticeships. The kickstart scheme can lead to such an opportunity, and we will be explaining to young people the opportunities that exist through our youth hubs. On supporting people, we have our flexible support fund for people to get into work and to thrive in work. Our in-work progression report will be reporting soon and we will look at it closely to see whether it covers any of these matters.
My hon. Friend is right. The design of universal credit means that people will always be better off working than not working. It is important that people take advantage of extra hours that they may be offered in order to get that benefit, and we will continue to help people get into that type of job.
Older workers can get help from their work coach if they need further qualifications or modern certifications. The DWP works with the Government’s business champion for older workers, providing outreach and advice for employers. We encourage all employers to reap the many benefits of recruiting workers who can bring a wealth of skills and experience to any workplace. I advise people to head to the JobHelp website, to look at the Department for Education’s digital toolkit, or to speak to their work coach about any support so that they can perhaps have the best part of their career in the final years of their career.
My hon. Friend highlights a vital issue, which is why we have developed a disability confident toolkit with stakeholders to provide comprehensive information and guidance for employers on autism and hidden impairments. I hope that his constituent’s undoubted talents will be unlocked shortly.
I have explored this issue, which is a little bit more complicated than the hon. Lady makes out. We have been working with housing associations. I would be very happy to sit down with her and have a briefing on the matter with officials.
The Government are rightly proud of providing record amounts of support for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions. Through our forthcoming health and disability Green Paper, we will work with stakeholders and those with real lived experience to make sure that we improve the services and support we provide.
I thank my hon. Friend for being so proactive, along with about 50 other MPs who have already agreed to host health and disability Green Paper events to look at the key themes of advocacy, getting supportive evidence, the assessment process and the appeals process. It is the Government’s absolute priority to support those with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
I thank the hon. Member for raising that point. We have been improving guidance and sharing best practice with employers. We have also made changes to statutory sick pay for those who are either self-isolating or sick to remove the four-day wait. It is disappointing to hear how that specific employer has treated their hard-working employee.
My hon. Friend knows the pain of the impact on the aviation sector, as do I in my nearby constituency. The DWP has a range of support for individuals who have been employed in this sector and are affected. The DWP rapid response service provides key help and advice for employers and their employees if they are facing redundancy. Our work coaches provide claimants with individual personalised support, utilising our plan for jobs, which includes SWAP—the sector-based work academy programme—for those currently displaced by the impact on the aviation sector. That can help to build confidence and transfer their very wide-ranging skills into other opportunities for the short or the longer term. I am pleased that many of them are working locally, vaccinating—
Ah, my favourite question on UBI. The answer is no. If the Welsh Government wish to use the extra money they receive through the Barnett formula to undertake other aspects, the question is whether it is within their legal powers to do so. I am conscious that we all want to make sure that food insecurity comes to an end, and that is why we are working across Government to tackle it.