Child Poverty

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5 March 2001.

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Photo of Jeff Ennis Jeff Ennis Labour, Barnsley East and Mexborough 12:00, 5 March 2001

What plans he has to increase the income of the parents of children living in poverty. [150485]

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security), NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

"Opportunity for All" describes a range of measures that we are taking to reduce the number of children living in poverty. From April this year, the working families tax credit, for instance, will guarantee a family with one child and one adult in full-time work a minimum income of £214 a week. The effect of all the changes that we have made means that, by April, all families with children will be better off, on average, by £15 per week in real terms compared to 1997, with the poorest gaining, on average, twice that amount.

Photo of Jeff Ennis Jeff Ennis Labour, Barnsley East and Mexborough

Is my hon. Friend aware that since the Government came to power, more than 100,000 children have been lifted out of poverty in Yorkshire and Humberside alone? That is good news for my constituency, which, as he knows, has the lowest level of gross domestic product per capita in the UK. Does he agree that one group of parents who face particular difficulty are those of disabled children? How do the Government intend to help those parents?

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security), NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

I can confirm that my hon. Friend is right. In Yorkshire, 100,000 children are now living above, rather than below, the poverty level. The number is far greater throughout the country as a whole, where 1.1 million children have now moved above the poverty line. In last week's Child Poverty Action Group report, Jonathan Bradshaw, who wrote the child poverty chapter, stated: There is no doubt that when the election takes place there will have been a substantial reduction in poverty, particularly child poverty, by any measure you care to use. We are this year increasing the disabled child premium in income-related benefits, which are received by the poorest families with disabled children. We are doing so because we recognise the need to target more help on families with disabled children.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Education and Employment)

The close association between poverty and disability has already been mentioned; I suspect that it applies especially when breadwinners and families are involved. Given that association, what consideration is the Under-Secretary giving to the fears expressed by the Remploy unions and others that incentives to so-called progression under the workstep scheme may lead to deskilling and poorer incomes for disabled people who are now in supported employment?

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security), NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

The Government continue to support Remploy through my colleagues in the Department for Education and Employment, who have introduced new leadership for the company and are planning a long-term secure future for supported employment. However, that is only part of the picture of what the Government are doing to improve employment opportunities for disabled people. We introduced the disabled persons tax credit and, through the new deal for disabled people, we have been piloting ways of enabling the many hundreds of thousands of disabled people who are on incapacity benefits and want to get back into work to achieve that ambition.