Income Support

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23 January 1996.

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Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw 12:00, 23 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many children under 16 years of age are in families receiving income support; and what proportion of all children this represents. [8790]

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

Around 2.98 million children are in families receiving income support, representing 25.5 per cent. of all children under 16 in Great Britain.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

Are those not appalling figures? One in four children are living at that poverty level, never getting to go to a pantomime, never having any decent toys for Christmas, never getting a change of clothes unless they go to jumble sales or Oxfam, and never going on a school trip or holiday. What has happened to the Tory policy of one nation?

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

Those are disturbing figures. However, if I tell the hon. Gentleman that, of those 2.98 million children, 1.8 million are children of lone parents, he might realise the fundamental social problem. The important point is that, since 1992, we have enabled 200,000 lone parents to move off income support and on to family credit, gaining, on average, £30 a week. With our child care disregard provisions, which have been announced, that trend should be accelerated.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will my hon. Friend confirm that payments to under-16s in that category are sufficient to ensure a proper and reasonable life style? Will he further confirm that they will not be victimised in the way that they would be if Labour policy on choice in schools has its way?

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

Parental choice in schools, which Conservative Members—if not all hon. Members—strongly support, can lead to additional expense. On the main point of my hon. Friend's question, a judgment must be made on the levels of income support that the Government believe to be appropriate in all the circumstances, including those that he adumbrated.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks , Croydon North West

Does the Minister agree that, under Beveridge, income support was intended to provide a safety net in the social security system? If one in four children are now dependent on income support, does that not show the failure of Government policy? Have not the Government turned what was once a proud welfare state into an expensive and complex dependency state?

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

No. The fact that income support provided a safety net on a scale undreamed of by the late Sir William Beveridge is a mark of the development of welfare principles in changing social conditions. As I said, 1.8 million—two thirds—of the 2.98 million children referred to in my main answer are the children of lone parents. That is a very real social problem. The way to tackle it is to provide incentives to work, which is what we are doing through family credit.