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In-work Poverty

Volume 698: debated on Monday 28 June 2021

The number of working-age adults in working families in absolute poverty before housing costs fell by 300,000 in 2019-20. We have strengthened the welfare system, spending £7.4 billion in 2020-21 on measures such as the universal credit uplift. This is on top of additional support such as the coronavirus job retention scheme and the self-employment income support scheme.

Wandsworth food bank does an excellent job of helping people in need, but it would like not to exist. Some 56% of the current food bank referrals from my constituents are due to wages being too low; 43% are due to unpredictable work from the gig economy. Many of my constituents in Putney, Southfields and Roehampton are working two or three jobs, and across the country one in six working households are unable to make ends meet. What steps has the Department taken to ensure that work always pays?

The Government are wholly committed to supporting the most vulnerable in our society, spending over £111 billion on working-age benefits in 2020-21, including an additional £7.4 billion in covid-related welfare policy measures. Additionally, my Department’s covid winter grant scheme—now the covid local support grant—has helped those families most in need with the cost of food and other essentials. We take the issue of food insecurity incredibly seriously; that is why we have published data on household food insecurity from the family resources survey for the first time, to get a better understanding of the lived experience of families.

The Minister has made it clear on a number of occasions that the Government believe that the way out of family poverty is to get people into work. What would he honestly say to a child growing up in a family in my constituency whose parents work and who is still living in poverty? What words would he use?

Of course I do not want to see anybody in this country, let alone any child, growing up in poverty. Working-age adults in working families were approximately four times less likely to be in absolute poverty than working-age adults in workless families. A child living in a household where nobody works is five times more likely to be in absolute poverty than a child in a household where every adult is working. As I said, we have to focus on in-work progression and tackling in-work poverty, and we are doing that: we have the In-Work Progression Commission, which will report shortly on the barriers to progression for those in persistent low pay and set out a strategy for overcoming them.