Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Monday 18th December 2023

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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The actions that we take to lift children out of poverty say an awful lot about our values. In Scotland, we have lifted 90,000 children out of poverty, with measures such as the game-changing Scottish child payment. Here in London, we have a Westminster Government, supported by the Labour party, wedded to a two-child policy that pushes 250,000 children into poverty. What does the Minister think it says about Westminster’s values on child poverty that they are wedded to a two-child policy with a rape clause?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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Adults in workless households are seven times more likely to be in poverty than those in working households. That is why our focus is on work. The Scotland Act 2016 gave the Scottish Parliament the powers that have been invoked, including on the child payment, and that is very pleasing for us. The Act transferred those powers for carers and disability benefits, worth £3.3 billion. The hon. Gentleman and his Government can make the decisions that suit their communities. That is the right approach.

Cost of Living: Parental Leave and Pay

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Monday 19th June 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I thank hon. Members for joining us this afternoon. In particular, I thank the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) for introducing the debate so thoughtfully.

As we have heard, being a parent is an incredibly important and rewarding job. It is one that comes with a unique set of challenges, from recovering from birth with a newborn to balancing employment and care and, in my own life, being a sandwich carer, so I absolutely understand the challenges. While I have the floor, I pay tribute to local firefighters who were battling a fire in Burgess Hill in my constituency just this afternoon, with members of the public being sent home and asked to be vigilant after another one yesterday in Sharpthorne. If you will indulge me, Mr McCabe, I thank them very much.

An 18-year-old will be coming into my house very shortly, and another teen. As a single mum and a woman returner, I really do get it, and I hope that some of my remarks will reflect that. I will be clear that I cannot answer all the issues, because they are not all in my remit, but I will undertake to write and share what I can and bring other Departments to account.

Last week was Loneliness Awareness Week. As parents, I think we have all felt incredibly lonely and isolated. Being a single parent can be overwhelming and incredibly difficult. It can be hard work; the pressures are not new, but they are definitely challenging right now. Overall, it is a wondrous, joyous slog—let us all be honest about that. Just after fathers’ day, we reflect that the boost for gender equality and equal parent support is vital. I thank Nicola for being here today, and all the groups and charities that support parents through this precious and—as we all recall, if ours are a little older—challenging time.

Speaking of baby boxes, on a slightly different point, I remember that my mum and dad gave me a war chest. They had been struggling with long-term illness and not having a huge amount of money, but it was a labour of love and of many trips to Poundland, and it really made a difference. We know that everything makes a difference at the start, when the parent is feeling the pressure and has had a big change in their life, particularly if the child is their first. Of course, added to that are high inflation, the cost of living challenges and global pressures, which make it very difficult to look after that precious little bundle. That is why it is important that in April we increased the rate of all statutory parental payments by 10.1%, in line with CPI, and we will continue to take decisive action to help households. I will outline some more of what we are doing shortly.

It is our firm belief that the best way to help people improve their financial circumstances throughout their life is through work, but, as the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North said, only when the time is right. It is important that people are given a choice, so I strongly agree with the points she made. We need to be ambitious in enabling parents to progress in work; it must not be only people without children who can do that, so we need to get things right. We need to support children by enabling their parents to be there when they want. That is equally valuable, and the flexible parental leave entitlements for new parents support just that.

I recognise that this is a complicated area, as hon. Members have said—I have taken their points on board. It is also vital that adopters get a better deal and more assistance. My wider family has experience of that, and it is really important too.

Parents must have access to the range of support and entitlements they need for their child’s first year. We are giving working families more choice and flexibility about who cares for their child when the parents are at work. Our statutory maternity leave entitlement is rightly generous, but hon. Members have said it is not generous enough—if only I had a magic wand. We offer 52 weeks of maternity leave, of which 39 are paid through statutory maternity pay. For self-employed women, who are not eligible for statutory maternity pay—I was one, so I very much understand the insecurity—maternity allowance is available. Both payments are designed to enable women to stop working towards the end of their pregnancy and in the precious months after childbirth. That is in their and their baby’s best interest; it supports their health, wellbeing and, above all, bonding.

I fully recognise the role that fathers can and must play in that crucial time, their child’s first year. We have a real opportunity to boost gender equality and support parents; I will say more about that later. Statutory paternity leave and pay arrangements enable employed fathers and partners who meet the qualifying conditions to take up to two weeks of paid leave within the first eight weeks following the birth of their child or placement for adoption. Qualifying parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson) rightly said that shared parental leave gives mothers who wish to return to work the opportunity to do so, and rightly enables the father or partner to be the primary carer if they wish.

We want more men to confidently take the helm. Employers can really help with that by understanding that dads want and need to be there at key moments, not just the nativity or the parents evening. In fact, I am the guilty party who is never there for the parents evening, so it is flipped around in my world these days. If men can confidently be there, perhaps, as Opposition Members said, we can boost the take-up of the scheme, which started in 2015. We forecasted that between 2% and 8% of eligible couples would take part, and the actual take-up is broadly in line with that. It is increasing each year, but not fast enough. That is the challenge for us all: how we make the scheme something that people really feel they can take part in. In order to do that, the shared parental leave online tool is accessible for parents to check their eligibility and plan their leave together. We are currently evaluating the shared parental leave scheme and will publish our findings in due course.

There has been a clear message today on rates. The rate of all statutory parental payments is reviewed annually and, as mentioned, generally increases in line with the CPI. The Government will spend around £276 billion in 2023-24 on welfare support in Great Britain. I will come to further support for those who may be listening this afternoon who perhaps have not reached out for additional help. I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North about the slightly indelicate link between out of work benefits and the support that we give to parents. I note her comments on that, and pretty much agree with her. I will take that away in terms of how we talk about supporting people who are out of work, and how we support pregnant working women when they are in the special position—let us be honest—of coming to the point when they want to do what is right for them next, and new mothers.

The Government spend approximately £3 billion on maternity payments. There is a balance to strike both in language and in any changes to the rate of SMP, taking account of economic circumstances and affordability for taxpayers. We also need to speak to stakeholders, some of whom have been mentioned, and businesses. It needs to be a holistic effort. The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) gave a list of future plans that he may have, but in reality we want to ensure that we hear the asks both of the petitioners who have challenged us this afternoon and of the sectors and businesses, to ensure that we take people on any change journey. We have talked about planning, saving and spreadsheets where needed. I was—briefly, it feels like—married to an accountant, so I felt as if I was living in a world of spreadsheets. It is what we all have to do, and it is a challenge, particularly when we do not know what we do not know when it comes to parenting, and the impact that it will have on our back pocket.

I think employers can do more. The work of the civil service was mentioned. We have a very tight labour market. Consider a talented, skilled, brilliant woman who is adopting or becoming a mum in whatever way, whether for the first time or growing her family. Employers really need to think forward about job design and making it work for such women to return. I mentioned that I am a single mum; when I came to this place, I was a woman returner. Many of us are, and many mums, for various reasons, have been locked out of the labour market for far too long. They have incredible ability and talent. Employers have a chance to look at job design. In my constituency, Boeing has created a deliberate part-time role—not a role where a person squeezes full time into part time, but an actual role where they add value in a way that works for their circumstances. If we have more people in the labour market doing more, everyone will do better, so let us all challenge ourselves on that.

I have been given an extremely long speech, so I will try not to repeat things that many people will know, and will try to answer some of the questions. Hopefully I have covered the way in which things are calculated and equal access for adoptive parents. I agree with the point on the Healthy Start scheme needing a boost with regard to take-up. I will take that away to work on with colleagues. I think the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North made a fair point on outcomes and monitoring, and I note that.

My friend the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), talked about tax relief, which was reiterated by the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden). I am not in the Treasury, and I am delighted about that every day; until I get the call-up, I will pass on that headache for as long as possible. I say that very gently—did I actually say that out loud? My point is that it is a matter for the Treasury. I am sure it is listening and I will leave it to get on with it.

Regarding the Scotland Act 1998, I am delighted that the hon. Member for Glasgow East is using those powers. I note his point about under-25s; that is not my policy area, but he knows that I have a strong interest in youth policy and single parents. I undertake to understand his point and take it away.

For those listening to this debate who have a concern about mortgages, I said on the Floor of the House this afternoon, and I reiterate here, that if people are worried they should engage with their mortgage lender. There is support for mortgage interest out there. We have abolished the zero-earnings rule to allow claimants on universal credit to receive support while in work and on UC—support is now available after three months. People should engage with their lenders. We paid £25 million to 12,000 households in 2021-22 and we will continue to extend that support for mortgage interest rates. People should use the benefits calculator on gov.uk if they are concerned; there is help for households on that site and links to the household support fund, which I will come on to shortly.

The hon. Member for Glasgow East raised a concern about miscarriage leave. Miscarriages are a deeply challenging, personal and devasting experience for many women, as well as their partners and families. In this place we have got better at talking about such things, but it is still too unspoken and difficult in the workplace, which is something a friend of mine recently spoke to me about. The Government believe that individuals are best placed to know their own specific needs, and that good employers will rightly respond in a sensitive way to requests made by employees.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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I do not intend to make this issue a party political point. Knowing the Minister very well, I think there is a genuine willingness to try and fix the issue. It is not something that should be hard. I caution the Government, however, that simply hoping that employers do the right thing is not something that we can rely on in this place. The Minister is right that the vast majority of employers would agree if an employee went to them and said, “I have had a miscarriage. Can I have some time off?” The reason that we legislate in this place is to ensure that the few are looked after. It is for that reason that it is important the Government look again and do not just leave it to the market. They should step in and do what the state does best.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I understand the point the hon. Gentleman makes. It is not an area that I am in charge of, but I am sure that those who are will be listening. Of course, if a woman unfortunately has a miscarriage, there are protections that extend to two weeks after the end of that pregnancy. That is a protection under the Equality Act 2010. I understand, however, the hon. Gentleman’s point about what happens before 24 weeks. This is a difficult one, which is why Nicola and the other petitioners, by bringing the petition to the House and making us focus on all of the issues, did the right thing. I have nearly got myself in enough trouble this afternoon, without creating any more policy in this Chamber, so I will refrain from saying more on that one.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point on the two child policy. We disagree on that point in terms of families on benefits facing the same financial challenges and choices when it comes to growing their family as those who are supported solely through work. It is important that child benefit continues to be paid for all children in eligible families, but it is right that we continue with that policy where appropriate. The hon. Gentleman mentioned those particular exemptions. Again, I note that it is a challenging area.

Opposition Members raised the issue of support for childcare. It is important to provide the right support for parents who are balancing childcare and returning to work. The Government have already put in more than £20 billion in the last five years to support families with the cost of childcare, and thousands of parents have benefited from that support. However, more changes are coming. We announced in the Budget that by 2027-28 we will provide £4.1 billion to expand the current free childcare offer to eligible working parents of children aged between nine and 36 months. I recognise that Government-funded childcare, which is free to the recipient, needs design. That was mentioned to a degree in the Chamber this afternoon. We are expecting to spend more than £8 billion a year on that funding and early education, which represents the biggest ever single investment in childcare in England.

I will quickly cover neonatal pay and pregnancy discrimination and then try to conclude, because I am mindful that I have spoken for some time. We are aware that more needs to be done to support parents whose children are in neonatal care. Many of us in the House know people personally who have been impacted by this issue. Again, the House has come into its own by talking about it and its impact on families.

In March 2020, following a Government consultation, we committed to introducing a new entitlement to neonatal leave and pay. The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 will introduce an entitlement of up to 12 weeks of paid leave for parents whose child is admitted to neonatal care. The entitlement will support new parents during the most stressful days of their lives, ensuring that they can be there for their youngster. The Act received Royal Assent on 24 May this year, and we anticipate that the entitlement will become available to parents in April 2025. I hope that that helps hon. Members.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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The Act was originally my Bill, so I am familiar with it. There is a slight issue with His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs dragging its heels. Notwithstanding what the Minister said about not being a Treasury Minister, will she at least write to HMRC following today’s debate, outlining that there is cross-party agreement? Indeed, the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall) has been excellent on this issue. There is cross-party agreement that £50 million has been committed in the budget line, but there is no need for us to wait that long because of the lag in HMRC guidance.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. I know it was a deeply personal Bill for him and he will be strident on this issue. I will take away that ask as he wishes.

I turn to pregnancy and maternity discrimination protections. Ensuring that parents have the leave and flexibility that they need during this period is important, as is ensuring that they are protected against discrimination and do not suffer any detriment for taking that leave. That is why we are rightly extending pregnancy and maternity discrimination protection for those returning from periods of eligible parental leave. The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will enable redundancy protections to apply from the point at which an employee told their employer that they were pregnant, until six months after returning from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave. The provision will protect individuals from redundancy and help mothers to remain, rightly, in the workforce.

Support needs to go way beyond the first year of a child’s life, so it is important that there are further entitlements for others. Time off for dependants is important as well, and I will update the House further on that.

It is important for me to cover flexible working. We are fully committed to ensuring that parents get the support that is right for them. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill received its Second Reading in the other place on 19 May. That Bill will increase the number of requests that an employee can make in a 12-month period, reduce the time allowed to administer requests, and support more effective conversations about what flexible working arrangements may work to the benefit of both employer and employee. Alongside the Bill, the Government will introduce regulations, as mentioned, to make the right to request flexible working apply from the first day of employment, bringing an estimated additional 2.2 million employees into the scope of the legislation. My understanding is that as soon as parliamentary time allows, this will be moving forward.

I mentioned cost of living support. Statutory parental pay is only one aspect of Help for Households. There is support worth £94 billion across 2022-23 and 2023-24 to help people with rising bills; the support is worth £3,300 per UK household on average. Included in that are cost of living payments to more than 8 million low-income households, about 6 million disabled people and more than 8 million pensioner households. I would say to anybody, “Please look at the benefits calculator. Please look at Help for Households. Please reach out to your local council or your devolved Administration, because there is extra support out there.”

I will close by reiterating the Government’s commitment to supporting parents as we continue to face high inflation. We understand the added, varied and complex pressures that we have heard about and discussed this afternoon, which parents are experiencing alongside the cost of living and inflation challenges. That is why we have done the right thing with the uprating, in line with CPI, of statutory parental payments—alongside other payments—by 10.1%. We will continue to take decisive action to help all households.

I thank all hon. Members for their contributions this afternoon, and the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North for opening this petition debate. I will continue to support women—as long as I have breath, and a seat in this House—in any role that I have. It is great that we all come together on something that is so important. On some areas there will of course be disagreements, but as long as we continue to work together to support parents, at this most difficult time, in any part of our community—I am seeing some of my great local charities, the local food bank and other supporters on Monday; there is additional support from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, by the way, for local charities—we will really make the difference and ensure that no parent, whatever their situation, and no family ever feel alone.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Monday 24th April 2023

(10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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Local charities play an important role in providing support in our communities. I look forward to visiting my hon. Friend’s constituency later this month to see what Combat2Coffee can do to support veterans and their families, and I hope to take a keen interest in Tools with a Mission too, if possible.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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When he appeared before the Select Committee in November, the Secretary of State said that,

“the more transparency there is, the better. It informs public debate and allows a feedback loop for the Department. It is all part of holding us to account and that is extremely important”.

In light of that and in the spirit of the Department’s new approach to transparency, can the Minister provide me with figures on how many DWP staff are themselves reliant on universal credit?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I know the hon. Gentleman takes a particular interest in transparency. I work strongly on the Department’s behalf, with the Minister in the Lords, and I will write to the hon. Gentleman with a response.

Local Housing Allowance

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Wednesday 15th March 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I hope to come that before I conclude my remarks. On the “no impact assessment” point made by the hon. Member for Arfon, we will publish an equalities analysis to the House of Commons Library, and I know the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) will keenly watch for that. On the recent question regarding shared rooms, there is an issue with the quality of data on room entitlements, so, if the hon. Member for Arfon writes to me, I will share with him further what I can best do to provide that.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I spent a bit of the afternoon reading the Government’s White Paper on health and disability, and have actually been very encouraged by one part of it that talks about the importance of transparency in decision-making processes in the DWP. Will the Minister confirm that there will be a change of culture now in the transparency and publication of some of these things, which, recently, some of us felt to be a bit murky?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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The hon. Gentleman points out the many questions he is asking about transparency, and I welcome that. Where policy is in development, we need to protect it, but, ultimately, if it needs to be transparent, I am very happy, where suitable, to share it.

On the point made by the right hon. Member for East Ham and others about temporary accommodation, it is, of course, an important way of ensuring that no family is without a roof over their heads. We are committed to reduce that need for temporary accommodation by preventing homelessness. We are investing £366 million into the homelessness prevention grant to support local authorities to prevent homelessness. The key point, and our main duty, is how best to support people so that they are not in that situation. I very much understand that, and I am keen to respond about how we are trying to do a little more about that.

It is important for Members to understand that the local housing allowance is not intended to cover all rents in all areas. In April 2020, in direct response to the covid-19 pandemic and the influx of new claimants because of the pandemic, we increased local housing rates to the 30th percentile of local market rates, costing nearly £1 billion and giving claimants on average an extra £600 in 2020-21. We have maintained that increase since then, ensuring that all those who benefited from the increase continue to do so.

I recognise that there are circumstances where extra help is needed, which is where we distribute the discretionary housing payments according to local need. Those payments play a critical role in providing support to the most vulnerable households in meeting their housing costs. Since 2010, we have provided nearly £1.6 billion in DHP funding to local authorities.

Of course, the competitive nature of the private rented market is driving up prices, alongside the annual review of LHA rates. I say to the hon. Member for Westminster North and the Chair of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for East Ham, we are absolutely determined to work around the quality and supply challenges that are ultimately driving that. Overall, the DWP Budget measures today represent £3.5 billion over the next five years to boost workforce participation.

In conclusion—

Social Security (Additional Payments) (No. 2) Bill

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
David Linden Portrait David Linden
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Will the Minister give way?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I will just make a little progress, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman will want to jump in again shortly.

Ultimately, this is about parity between taxpayers and those people who are seeking support. As I say, we have targeted communications in place to make it clear to customers that our work coaches are there to help, whatever their circumstances. Whether it is getting advice, boosting people’s skills, or identifying opportunities for progression, anybody looking for support should speak to their work coach to access all the help that the DWP can offer.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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On amendment 2, the fact of the matter is that people have already been punished once by being sanctioned. This is a cost of living payment in recognition of inflation and high energy bills. Why on earth does the Minister think it is appropriate for 6,600 households to have been sanctioned and punished twice last year, and why is she allowing legislation to go forward that allows people to be punished twice again? That is the simple question.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for making his points, and I simply do not agree with the point about punishment. Conditionality works on both sides, and I think it is important that people play their part. I will come on to further comments about that shortly.

Social Security (Additional Payments) (No. 2) Bill

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank my hon. Friend, who is standing up as ever for his constituents. There is a cost of living website, there will be details on gov.uk and of course there is the benefits calculator on gov.uk. Those who are entitled will not need to do anything, because payment will be made to them. I hope that reiterates the point. There will be a rounded communications campaign on that. In fact, I made a video just this morning. I hope that is helpful—I promise the video was on this issue.

The key principle that has guided our approach to the Bill this time is to make those further payments to millions of vulnerable people over the coming year. Keeping the rules simple means that people on a qualifying benefit will receive the cost of living payment. That is why we are introducing the Bill. I reassure hon. Members across the House, including on the Opposition Benches, that we did take our time to look at addressing some of the hard edges. Ultimately, we concluded that introducing any significant policy changes would risk delaying payments to millions of people and introducing unacceptable levels of fraud and error. I will go into detail on that shortly, if I may.

We will be delivering the means-tested cost of living payments in three separate payments in 2023-24, as discussed, reducing the chances of someone’s missing out altogether. For those who miss out on a cost of living payment, and for others who may need further support with the costs of essentials on top of our statutory provision, we are extending the household support fund throughout the next financial year. The details have been confirmed today.

The extension allows local authorities in England to continue to provide discretionary support with the cost of essentials, particularly energy and food. The devolved Administrations will receive consequential funding, as usual, to spend at their discretion and with their expert local knowledge—[Interruption.] Sorry, I thought someone was interrupting there. The household support fund guidance and outlines have been released today. It is our expectation that local authorities will prioritise those in particular need and consider supporting those who may, through no fault of their own, have missed out on those cost of living payments but nevertheless are in need.

There have been a number of contributions to the debate and I will to try to respond to some of the points made in turn. The right hon. Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth) talked about the energy price cap. He welcomed our uprating, which is significant. I remind him that childcare on universal credit is more generous than on legacy benefits and the way we have drawn the household support fund will cover many of the points he raised; I hope he will have a chance to look at those interventions. The personalised support with the Help to Claim service, working with the supporting families programme from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, will help the families with complex needs that the right hon. Gentleman spoke about.

The hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) called this “substandard legislation”, which I take severe issue with, but he took the opportunity to make wider points about social security and talked about the “punitive sanctions regime”. I think we will always beg to differ on that. I make the point very strongly that this is a reserved matter. We are delighted to be making the payments for Scotland and today providing the Barnett consequentials in relation to the household support fund and further assistance—[Interruption.] I am sure he cannot resist intervening, so I will let him.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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Indeed not. I very much enjoyed being told to eat my cereal today. On the question of sanctions, how many people in Mid Sussex tell the Minister how wonderful the sanctions regime is? It is clearly increasing.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I will come onto the point about sanctions shortly. I know there is confusion among those on the Opposition Benches about whether they support sanctions, but this is about a safety net; it is about progressing and supporting people and helping them to go forward. In reality, when people are sanctioned, it does not just happen. There are processes to go through where work coaches try to engage and support people. If people are disconnected and they fail to attend, that is why they are sanctioned, which is often the reason they then re-engage, talk to their work coach and get involved with what is going on. That helps us to get under the skin of what is holding them back, and I think that is important. I assume from his question that there is a fundamental disagreement, but I will not hold it against him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew) very kindly turned the focus on to employment. Having been Employment Minister for three years, how can I resist responding to that? A dynamic labour market is important, including the work around furlough, the plan for jobs, and the kickstart and restart schemes—I designed many of those programmes, so it is always nice to have a compliment. In reality, our talented new work coaches—those who we found, recruited and brought into the DWP because of the impact of the pandemic—have been transformational. The other side of this debate is important—it is jobs, it is livelihoods, it is careers, it is opportunities, and it is making sure that people, when at their most vulnerable, know that they have that safety net. I wish my hon. Friend good luck with his jobs fair on 10 March. I have my second in Burgess Hill—this is a great opportunity to mention it.

The right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) spoke up for his constituents and their fuel requirements. Of course, the energy price guarantee will be key to protecting customers and our constituents, and the household support fund will be a key driver as well. It is absolutely right to focus on our constituents. I have worked very strongly on the household support fund to complement this piece of legislation, working with the Local Government Association, to ensure that we support everyone who comes to us in any situation. I was pleased to hear him talk about the rewards of work and why they matter too. We know that it is more than just a pay packet that we are looking for.

My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson) spoke about households being squeezed, the cost of living website, and, of course, the fact that the help-to-claim service is there and that all constituencies—no matter how leafy and lovely they may seem—have pockets of challenge. It is absolutely right that we act when we see the impact of a global squeeze. That is absolutely the mark of what we stand for at the DWP. There is the £10 million going to Surrey, and the almost £10 million going to West Sussex just next door to my constituency. What has come out of this and the work that we have done during covid? It is our work with local authorities, which I must commend for stepping up and doing a magnificent job in helping people. They know where those pockets of support are needed. I thank those local offices.

I will quickly whip through some of the challenges made about the legislation. On the adequacy point, inflation is forecast to remain high over the next few months, meaning that many people will need this additional support, but it is important to remember that these payments are just one element announced by the Chancellor back in November. The broader uprating will make a difference.

On the points about housing support, I am working with colleagues at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on quality and provision. My party strongly continues to focus on opening up the benefits and freedom of home ownership and all that it gives. The 2020 local housing allowance rates were raised to the 30th percentile—a significant investment of £30 billion—and we have since maintained that increase. Of course, we know that housing costs are incredibly challenging, particularly for renters. That is something that we are working on and taking forward in through the housing taskforce.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Monday 23rd January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising the wonderful work of Citizens Advice, which does so much in Kettering and across the country, and indeed delivers our Help to Claim service. The benefits calculator on gov.uk and Help for Households can also support people; many do not know those resources are there. We are absolutely here for people and there is more out there. I will ensure that the household support fund is clearly branded and reaches people who may be just managing.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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The Minister seemed to be appalled by the reference of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) to the rape clause, so let us use its Sunday name: the non-consensual sex exemption, as the Government like to call it. Is she genuinely comfortable with a Government who ask survivors of rape to prove that their child has been born as a result of sexual assault? The reality is that, with the limited devolution powers we have for social security, we have the game-changing Scottish child payment, while this Government ask women to prove that their children have been born as a result of rape just to get state support. Given that the Labour party has departed from many of its policies and is a pale imitation of the Tories, is it not the case that the only way to ensure that we have a decent social security system is with independence?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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We should be very careful with our language in this regard. It is absolutely right that people in every single circumstance can come forward positively, but labelling the provision in that way in the Chamber is not helpful—[Interruption.] It is not about whether it is our policy; that terminology is unhelpful. Universal credit is always tailored to individual circumstances. If anybody would like to come forward with anything that has happened to them, jobcentres are a safe place in which to declare domestic abuse or ask for support. I say to those people: please do step forward, as we have the J9 initiative and other ways to support people.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Monday 13th December 2021

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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I believe it may be more appropriate for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Department for Education to respond to this question, but I will happily flag up to the DfE anything that deters young people from entering apprenticeships and the labour market, and being able to move into long-term work.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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We do not talk often enough in society about old-age poverty. Besides the inadequate state pension and the latest triple-lock betrayal, another factor is the low uptake of pension credit: about 1 million pensioners in the UK miss out on £1,600 a year on average, with single women being most affected. We have heard the Pensions Minister say countless times that the Government want to increase the take-up of pension credit, so why is the Department refusing to introduce a proper take-up strategy for pension credits and other benefits, as we have done in Scotland?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the Government will publish the response to that report by the end of the year. It will help his constituents and all those facing barriers to progressing in work. Almost £100 million was announced by the Chancellor to support a new in-work progression programme.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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The British Government’s statutory minimum wage is not a real living wage; in fact, it is a sham. It does not meet the minimum income needed for an acceptable living standard, and the differing rates for young people, including in the Secretary of State’s constituency, are wholly unjust and discriminatory. What action will she take to ensure that all workers, regardless of age, get a real living wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation in April, that actually reflects the rising cost of living, and not the sham supported by this British Government that Scotland did not vote for?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Monday 13th September 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that we are currently working across Government to understand local labour market needs and opportunities, and to understand how best to support those who wish to enter self-employment and be self-supporting and, above all, self-starting. We have learned from the new enterprise allowance and we also understand the impacts of covid, and we are working on all that right now.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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Many pensioners will be relying on pension credit to get by after the Tories’ brutal triple lock betrayal. Will the Secretary of State follow Scotland’s lead and commit herself to introducing a proper take-up strategy for reserved benefits, including pension credit, and will she consider the automation of payments to ensure that more people receive the support to which they are entitled?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mims Davies and David Linden
Monday 17th May 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mims Davies)
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I have regular discussions with a range of Ministers across the Government about how best to get young people into work and thriving. We are already incentivising employers to hire young people through the kickstart scheme, through which we pay wages and the associated national insurance contributions for six months. It is a job creation scheme for the young people who are most at risk of long-term unemployment, building vital experience throughout the pandemic and giving them the confidence and skills needed to thrive in their future workplace.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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The kickstart scheme was launched with much fanfare but it has been a bit of a flop, not to mention a headache for many businesses such as METERology in my constituency, which has been given a total runaround by the Secretary of State’s Department. Recent figures suggest that if the UK Government maintain a rate of 400 new employees starting each day, they should hit their target of 250,000 new jobs in 625 days—that is two years—so what more are they going to do to ensure that kickstart can really live up to its hype rather than just be a slogan for the Chancellor’s naff hoodie?