Child Poverty

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 9th March 2020.

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Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

There are 743,000 fewer children in workless households compared with 2010. The evidence shows that work is the best route out of poverty, and a child living in a household where all adults work is about five times less likely to be in poverty than children in households where nobody works.

Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister for Local Government (Communities), Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Defence)

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. The Child Poverty Action Group has published a study that detailed the lives of children who go hungry and the impact on their health, education and friendships. It showed that some were ashamed to invite friends home because they have no food to offer them. When will the Government give child poverty the priority that it needs?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am conscious of CPAG’s report, which tends to use the relative “after housing costs” poverty measure. However, it is important to say this about the relative element; if we go back just over 10 years, we can see that just having a recession reduces relative poverty. We need to keep focused on what is really happening to families. That is why, if we use the absolute poverty measure, we will see that fewer people are in poverty than was the case 10 years ago. We will continue to work with parents to ensure that they try to earn the amount of money that they need so that they can continue support their children.

Photo of Laura Trott Laura Trott Conservative, Sevenoaks

Childcare costs place a huge strain on family finances. Will my right hon. Friend outline what help is being given to families with up-front costs of childcare?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The way universal credit works is for people to have payments in arrears, but 85% of eligible childcare costs are covered, compared with 70% under the legacy system. It is also important to stress that the flexible support fund can be used to help with those sorts of costs, but we need to ensure that people are paying according to their salaries, as opposed to our simply giving grants up front.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

According to the Department’s own figures, the majority of households hit by the two-child limit are in work but on low incomes. This policy pushes working families further into poverty, when our social security system should be giving people a route out. Will the Minister have a strong word with the Chancellor and end this pernicious policy in this week’s Budget, and why not support the Daily Mirror’s “Give Me Five” campaign while he is at it?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that child benefit continues to be paid for all children, as well as an additional amount for any disabled children. He is hitting the wrong note here, as is the Daily Mirror, when it comes to the “Give Me Five” campaign, as this is not a targeted policy to reduce child poverty. I simply say that, by keeping the two-child policy, providing support for a maximum of two children ensures fairness between claimants and those who support themselves and their families solely through work.