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Child Poverty

Volume 747: debated on Monday 18 March 2024

We are reducing child poverty through the use of a large number of measures, not least ensuring that work pays, hence our increase in the national living wage in April and the reduction in the national insurance tax that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced recently.

A total of 100,000 children will be kept clear of poverty this year thanks to the Scottish Government’s policies—primarily the Scottish child payment. Surely the Secretary of State must now look to rolling out some of our policies in other parts of the UK and, at the very least, ditch the two-child limit, which deliberately forces children into poverty.

The limit to which the hon. Gentleman refers is there for a very good reason, which is that people in those circumstances should face the same basic decisions as those not on benefits. That is an important matter of fairness across those who receive benefits as well as the many who are paying tax. As for the number of children in poverty, that has fallen by 400,000 since 2010.

Many of those people are in work, Secretary of State. Some £14 million has been paid to more than 10,000 children’s families in Renfrewshire thanks to the widely praised Scottish child payment. Praise has come from the Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland, which says that the Scottish Government are making employment for parents central to their child poverty strategy, but it says that devolved employment support programmes are

“held back by responsibility being split across governments and a reserved Jobcentre system which is more often focused on compliance than helping people reach their full potential.”

It recommends the full devolution of employment support to tackle child poverty. Will the Secretary of State listen to the experts?

I am always very interested in listening to the hon. Gentleman and any ideas that he has about how we should improve our welfare system, but I point to the fact that this country has seen a considerable drop in absolute child poverty, after housing costs, of 400,000 since 2010.

What correlation does the Secretary of State see between children in poverty and workless families? Given that there is no age restriction on most apprenticeships, and today’s announcement that there will be 20,000 more apprenticeships and that the apprenticeship levy can be spent on greater numbers of contractors and sub-contractors, what opportunities does he see for his Department to highlight those opportunities for people who are of working age and who may have children in poverty?

My hon. Friend refers to workless households. He is absolutely right about the correlation: a child is five time more likely to be in poverty if they are growing up in a workless household. He was right to draw attention to the announcement that has been made today about even greater investment in apprenticeships, and also the change in the way that the apprenticeship levy works so that supply chains can benefit to a greater degree.