Welfare Policies

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the effect of that Department’s welfare policies on women.

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The welfare system treats individuals of all genders equally. It provides support and incentives to claimants to enter employment and progress in work. The Department for Work and Pensions and indeed the whole Government are committed to ensuring that all claimants have access to the right tailored support when they need it.

Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

This question is about to completely contradict what has just been said. Under universal credit, lone parents under the age of 25 receive a lower payment than under the legacy system. This is totally arbitrary and discriminates heavily against women, who make up 90% of lone parents. Will the Minister urge the DWP to rethink the policy?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

As the hon. Gentleman will know, over the last two Budgets we have put in an extra £6 billion to support the most vulnerable in universal credit. Sadly, he and his colleagues did not vote to support those changes.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

Does my hon. Friend agree that ensuring that universal credit is fair and flexible for women is a vital part of supporting women’s economic empowerment?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the universal credit system, we have one-to-one support provided by work coaches, and it is working. We have just seen the figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics showing that the rate of women in employment is at a record high.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Minister is also wrong with respect to national insurance contributions being attributed, or rather not attributed, to women who have more than one period of maternity leave within two years. Will he go back to look at the correspondence I have sent to the Department about this very serious problem?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Of course I will look at the correspondence and make sure that the appropriate Minister meets the hon. Lady.

Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Disabilities), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Youth affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Children and Families), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

With regards to the DWP’s pensions policy, this Women and Equalities Minister—the fourth—has had the opportunity to reduce the gender pay gap and tackle discrimination against those with disabilities, women and LGBT and BME people before another Prime Minister and another reshuffle. What is she going to achieve in this term?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

We in the DWP have introduced a range of measures across the whole Government to make sure that we are supporting those across all sectors of society into work. As I said, the hon. Lady just needs to look at the jobs figures: we have joint record high employment, record high women’s employment and record high ethnic minorities in employment.