May I take this opportunity to thank my predecessor, my right hon. Friend Ms McVey, for her great leadership of this Department and particularly for her work on the Disability Confident campaign, which she set up?
The number of workless households has decreased by 964,000 since 2010, and currently stands at 3 million; this is a decrease of 24%. As the Office for National Statistics reported last week, the employment rate now stands at a near record high of 75.5 %, with a record 23.93 million people in full-time employment. In fact, there are now more than 3.3 million more people in work than in 2010.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and welcome her back to her place on the Front Bench. Worklessness can hold people back in so many ways. Does my right hon. Friend agree that having people in employment can broaden the horizons not just of the person in work, but of the whole household?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We know that children in workless families are disadvantaged in their development, as well as in their future prospects, which is why we will continue to develop policies that support and encourage employment, strengthening parents’ incentives to move into and progress in work.
Children in workless households are five times more likely to be in poverty than those in working households. Does the Secretary of State agree that work is always the best route out of poverty and that our reforms are beginning to transform lives for old and young?
I very much look forward to my visit to Stirling. My hon. Friend has made a good point; work is the pillar of a strong economy and a strong society. We believe that work should pay, but we need a welfare system that helps people into work and then supports them when they are in work. Universal credit will result in an extra 200,000 people moving into work and will enable people to work extra hours during the year, empowering a great working nation.
The best way to bring down unemployment is to have a strong economy. The Government are focused on making sure that that is what we deliver, but I also hope that the roll-out of universal credit, with the benefit of work coaches, will help the hon. Lady’s constituents to find the work that they want to do.
I welcome the Secretary of State to her position.
There are only 220 registered unemployed people in my constituency and nearly 2,200 children living below the poverty line, which tells us that poverty is far more complex in its causes than we sometimes think. Would the Secretary of State consider introducing mandatory poverty impact assessments for all Government policies, including those that have a specific impact on rural communities such as excessive transport and housing costs, as well as the likely impact of withdrawing the basic payment system for farmers?
The hon. Gentleman has raised quite a few points. Let me start by congratulating his constituency and celebrating the fact that there are only 220 people there without work. I hope that the roll-out of universal credit will help them to find the additional work that they seek. He has raised a number of issues about the cost of living in his constituency. If I may, I will come back to him on those matters.