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Child Poverty

Volume 705: debated on Monday 13 December 2021

As the economy recovers, and with record job vacancies, our focus is on supporting parents to secure a role and to progress in work. This is based on clear evidence around the importance of parental employment, particularly where it is full time, in substantially reducing the risk of child poverty. Our multi-million pound plan for jobs, which has been expanded by £500 million, will help people to boost their wages and their prospects.

Every time I walk down the high street in Stockton, I see the signs of poverty, with 51% of working-age families with children receiving universal credit, the majority of whom are in work. They are heading towards Christmas wondering how to put food on the table, never mind buy presents for their children. Will the Government accept responsibility for child poverty, recognise that the £20 uplift to universal credit could have made all the difference this Christmas, and tell me what parents should say to their children on Christmas morning, when there will be very little to celebrate?

The hon. Member talks about in-work poverty. Important steps were put forward in the Budget to improve the taper rate and the work allowance, which will really help many of his constituents—in fact, the vast majority of them, about 3,966.

I very much welcome the change to the taper rate for universal credit. This will be of enormous help in reducing child poverty for parents who are in work. As we run into the new year, could my hon. Friend now persuade the Chancellor to look carefully at further helping out by putting more money into the work allowances for many of those who are trapped and unable to get into work?

Having served as my right hon. Friend’s Parliamentary Private Secretary in the past, I know his passion for these issues. In the Budget, we set out that the work allowances were going to increase by £500, and that has made a big contribution. For those who are vulnerable, we have provided an extra £500 million of support, which will be a real help over the winter.

Despite the recommendations made by the Work and Pensions Committee, the British Government have no intention of developing a strategy to reduce child poverty. This stands in stark contrast to the SNP Scottish Government, who have declared tackling child poverty a national mission and are doubling their game-changing Scottish child payment to £20 a week, in contrast to this Government’s decision to cut universal credit by £20 a week. Why are the UK Government refusing to introduce proper proposals to tackle child poverty as we have done in Scotland?

We do have proper plans in place, and we are working hard to help parents to get into work. As the hon. Gentleman will know, 580,000 fewer children are in workless households than in 2010, so we are taking the action that is required. I know, having recently come to this post, how hard the Secretary of State is working across Government to tackle this vital issue.

The best route out of poverty is work, so does the Minister agree that it is important to get more people into work through our ambitious plan for jobs and through investment in Teesside such as our freeport programme, which will produce 18,000 jobs over the next five years?

Absolutely. It is pivotal that we get the plan for jobs working, along with local councils, local enterprise partnerships, hard-working Mayors and businesses. That is what we are seeing in Teesside, which is setting a great example for the rest of the country.