Universal credit supports working parents with childcare costs, regardless of the number of hours they work. This provides an important financial incentive to those taking their first steps into paid employment. People can recover up to 85% of their eligible childcare costs on universal credit, compared to 70% on the legacy system.
As the Minister will know, one of the big challenges with universal credit is that families have to pay their childcare costs upfront. Save the Children and the Centre for Social Justice have recently warned that this is leaving families in £1,000 of debt when they start work. Under the review that the Department now seems to be conducting, can it look again at this, and can it also look at their other recommendation of making it not 85% but 100% of childcare costs, because this would really benefit those on low pay?
I know that the hon. Lady has worked tirelessly on this issue. The Government recognise its importance, which is why we have increased our financial support by nearly 50% since 2010. We are making improvements specifically in relation to payment in arrears, improving communication and ensuring that the Flexible Support Fund is better known and better used to help those who would otherwise face a financial barrier.
Will the Minister ensure that no one else ever suffers the same indignity as Paulette Reid of Acton, a working mum with three kids who, over Christmas, found herself with £10 to her name for the entire holiday season? When she rang the DWP asking for the payment that we are told everyone receives in advance, she was told to go to a food bank. The people at the Department obviously do not understand that that involves a referral process. How can this be happening now in the fifth richest country on earth? It seems that “I, Daniel Blake” is becoming reality in Ealing, queen of the suburbs.
I am very sorry to hear about that case. The hon. Lady’s constituent should have had access to an advance payment, and if she was down to her last £10, it should have been made on that day. If the hon. Lady will write to me with all the details, we will look at that specific case to see what went wrong.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement about examining the impact of universal credit on women, which, through women, often affects children. Will she look again at the single household payment, and consider separate payments to protect women from financial coercion, control and abuse?
This matter relates mostly to domestic abuse. I have been doing a huge amount of work with Women’s Aid, Refuge and ManKind to increase awareness that split payments are available in those circumstances, and to ensure that more work is done to identify, refer and support such claimants.