It is a pleasure to follow Alison McGovern.
In speaking today I want to commend the excellent work of my local work coaches whom I recently met at the Whitehaven Jobcentre Plus office in Copeland. They are doing a tremendous job in helping many hundreds of people in my constituency into work.
I think back to the time when I owned and managed my own children’s day nursery and remember speaking with women who did not want to work for more than 16 hours a week because it would scupper their benefits. The benefits system was a clear disincentive to work, and that has been one of the greatest changes from the introduction of UC. Under the previous welfare system people could lose over £9 of every £10 they earned, creating no financial incentive whatever to get up in the morning and go to work.
As my business was looking after other people’s children, I heard the experiences of many parents. Under UC 85% of childcare costs can now be paid regardless of how many hours a parent works, which is a huge increase in support compared with tax credits. Under the previous system it often made no financial sense to work more than 16 hours a week; now, under UC, work pays.
The recent decision to remove the two-child limit under UC for those born before 2017 is welcome. When my four daughters were all aged under five I had to combine my full-time employment with taking care of my young girls. As a direct result of this Government’s intervention a working family with two children can now receive up to £13,000 a year for their childcare costs because we have increased the available support from 70% to 85%.
We must also remember that an extra 15 hours of free childcare has now been available to working parents of three and four-year-olds since September 2017, which is enabling more parents to make work pay. Particularly for women, this makes all the difference; we now have more women in the workplace than ever before—since records began in 1971—which is making a significant difference to families’ take-home pay.
One of the greatest influences on a young person seeking employment themselves is seeing their parents enthusiastically going out to work in the morning and positively speaking about their work when they return home, as I do with my own daughters, their friends and boyfriends. There are 458,000 fewer young people out of work than in 2010, which amounts to a 50% decrease in unemployment, and welfare reform has supported the impressive figure of 1,000 jobs on average being created every day since 2010.