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Welfare Reform: Gender Equality

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 25th February 2016.

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Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Scottish National Party, Dundee West 9:30 am, 25th February 2016

What assessment she has made of the effect on gender equality of the Government’s welfare reforms.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

The Government set out their assessment of the impacts of the policies in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill on 20 July. Every Government policy change is carefully considered, in line with the legal obligations.

Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Scottish National Party, Dundee West

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that working lone parents with assets or unearned income are more likely to lose out under universal credit. With single parents overwhelmingly being female, it appears to me that the Government’s austerity programme is once again targeting women. What representations has the Minister made to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about the impact of universal credit on women’s equality?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

I come back to my opening comment: we fully assessed the impact of the Bill’s equality measures, and we are meeting our wider obligations. As the hon. Gentleman will recognise, universal credit supports people in employment, and that applies equally to women. That is alongside all the additional measures that we are now implementing, such as the national living wage, increased childcare and tax-free childcare.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Scottish Parliament/Scottish Government Liaison), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations)

The Minister will be aware that women’s aid groups have expressed serious concerns that changes to housing benefit could force the closure of many refuges. Will she challenge her colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions to exempt refuges from those changes, to protect vulnerable women and children who are fleeing domestic violence?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

The hon. Lady will know that there are measures in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, and they are in conjunction with the many discussions that we have with stakeholders, and we take on board all considerations. That is exactly what the Department will do in its dialogue with third-party organisations.