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Cost of Living: People with Protected Characteristics

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 13 July 2022

4. What assessment she has made of the impact of recent rises in the cost of living on people with protected characteristics. (901078)

The Treasury carefully considers the equalities impacts of policy on those with protected characteristics, in line with both its strong commitment to promoting fairness and its legal obligations under the public sector equality duty. In May, the Government announced over £15 billion of additional support targeted at those with the greatest need.

Single parents—nine in 10 of whom are mothers—are among those most exposed to the cost of living crisis, particularly those aged 25 and under, who get a reduced rate of universal credit. What are the Government doing to evaluate the impact of soaring prices on that group, and why have they not taken steps such as ending the age-related universal credit limit?

The Government’s support package targets the most vulnerable households, including single parents, providing a £650 cost of living payment. I would certainly urge her constituents to contact the local council to see whether the household support fund can also be of assistance.

Today’s report from the Resolution Foundation shows that our economy is over a decade into a period of stagnation after 12 years of Tory rule, yet all we see from the Government Benches is a chaotic Tory tombola of tax cuts, and no plan for the more secure economy that women need. The impact on women has been stark, with 115,000 fewer women in employment now than before the pandemic. Does the Minister have any plans to halt that fall?

The Resolution Foundation has actually praised this Government’s handling of the cost of living pressures. The cost of living support package, totalling £37 billion this year, is in line with our international competitors and more generous than France, Germany and Japan.

There we have it: there is no Conservative plan to support women’s employment. Women are being hammered by the Conservative cost of living crisis, which is getting worse by the day. After 12 years of economic failure, it is little wonder that Tory leadership candidates are trashing their own record. How else can the Minister explain the fact that by next April, average real pay for full-time women workers will have fallen by £670 since the Tories came to power?

There are more people in employment and on payrolls than pre-pandemic levels, and women are driving that growth in our economy. The support programme this Government have introduced is helping women back into work, and I hope that will benefit the hon. Lady’s constituents as well as mine.

According to the Women’s Budget Group, the UK Government’s erosion of the social security system is a key contributor to the current Tory cost of living crisis. Women—particularly those with disabilities or caring responsibilities and those from ethnic minority backgrounds—are disproportionately impacted by that crisis, which is a crisis unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. Knowing that, what specific steps has the Minister taken to make sure those equalities impacts are properly taken into account in the UK Government’s response to the cost of living crisis?

As part of our cost of living support package, we have introduced a very specific disability cost of living payment, worth £150 per person. I would add that in the spending review, the UK Government gave the Scottish Government £41 billion a year as part of its settlement: the biggest since devolution, and a 26% increase compared with the average across the UK.