Household Support Fund

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(3 months, 4 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I thank the right hon. Member for East Ham (Sir Stephen Timms) for securing the debate and for his work on this issue as Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, of which I am a member. The Committee has heard evidence on the fund, and it is clear that it has been a vital support to families since its introduction.

The fund has been essential in supporting vulnerable households in need with food, energy and water bills, and other associated tasks, with at least 50% of the total funding required being spent on families with children. The scheme was well received by residents in North Devon and across the UK. Recognising that, the Government have extended the fund several times. We all know that it has been a particularly tough time across the country, not least given rising energy prices as a result of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, but the scheme’s end in March 2024 will come at a cost to vulnerable families.

Despite the Government’s hard work on bringing down inflation, continued economic pressures on vulnerable families mean that the household support fund is still needed in constituencies like mine. In North Devon, 30% of children live in poverty. The campaign by Barnardo’s to extend the fund has been supported by residents back home, as the fund provides a lifeline for families in urgent need of practical help. Throughout the pandemic, the fund allowed councils to significantly expand local support where households were struggling to afford essentials or facing severe hardship.

I have written to Ministers at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities about disparities in rural council funding. Councils and other frontline services report record demand for local welfare support. Devon County Council has warmly welcomed the more than £10 million it has received from the fund in this financial year. In a six-month window, the fund provided help in over 50,000 different cases.

Ilfracombe in my North Devon constituency is the third most deprived rural town in the country, in contrast with the much wealthier south of the county, and I have been continuously presenting a case for more funding in the town. I am not confident that this is the right time to be cutting funding from those who need it most without a replacement. I understand that the Government will continue to keep all their programmes under review, but I would be most grateful if the Minister could set out further steps and tell us about potential replacement schemes, as successful as the household support fund, that will provide a safety net to our most vulnerable families.

Oral Answers to Questions

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Monday 4th September 2023

(8 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I think we can agree on one thing: the hon. Gentleman’s area is a very special one. In the meantime, we have recruited at the DWP 37 progression leads who will work locally with employers and jobcentres to sort that progression and retention challenge, but I think some of his questions are for a different Department.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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19. What steps his Department is taking to increase employment in North Devon constituency.

Guy Opperman Portrait The Minister for Employment (Guy Opperman)
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The Jobcentre teams in North Devon are working day and night to fill the vacancies in my hon. Friend’s constituency. That includes inviting employers into the Jobcentre Plus each week, and having upcoming events on sector-based work academy programmes, including one that is about to happen with the NHS trust in Barnstaple.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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Unemployment in North Devon is well below the national average due to the high proportion of retired people and a lack of homes those working can afford. Businesses and the public sector alike are reporting high vacancy levels. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that we do not see further business closures because of a lack of homes that workers can afford?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I visited North Devon in April to meet my hon. Friend and discuss those issues. She has my full support and that of the Department in her work to ensure that we address those problems. Clearly, those matters are being addressed on an ongoing basis by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, but I can assure her that she has my full support.

State Pension Age: Review

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Thursday 30th March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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The hon. Lady raises an important point. As she acknowledges, there has been an extension to the deadline, and the reasons for that were in the very point she made about waiting times and so on. We are keeping that under review—I can say no more than that—and we are also increasing the amount of resources going into telephony to resolve the issues.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are real complexities in understanding life expectancy? From listening to the right hon. Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), one would think that it was very easy to understand. The Secretary of State is my constituency neighbour, and the difference in life expectancy between the north and south of our county is over 10 years, with the lowest being in my patch—it is incredibly complex. Does he agree that setting the state pension age is also a complex process, and that it should be set through data-led decision making rather than political point scoring by the Opposition?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I agree with my hon. Friend and neighbour. She is absolutely right that we need to use the best possible data that we have, which is precisely why we have taken the decision that we have, and I am pleased that the Opposition have welcomed it.

Health and Disability White Paper

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Thursday 16th March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I am hugely appreciative of the hon. Lady, who always speaks with great passion on these issues. I welcome the cautious welcome from her about the broad thrust of the reform we are trying to deliver, which is to remove the structural disincentive to work. That manifests itself in the many conversations I have with disabled people and their representative groups, when they tell me that many disabled people would like to try to work, but fear doing so and then losing their entitlement if it does not work out. That is not an acceptable situation, and it is right that we change it. I hope that as a House, as we move forward with these reforms, we can come together and deliver something that achieves that objective, which is plainly the right thing to do.

It was before my time in the House, but I well remember debates in previous years about the work capability assessment. It is welcome that we are scrapping the work capability assessment through these reforms. The reforms also offer an opportunity to focus on quality when it comes to the PIP assessment and on making sure that we get the right decisions first time. The hon. Lady will note, for example, that one of the commitments we have made in the White Paper is trying to match specialist assessors with people’s conditions. That is another thing people have regularly been asking for, and we are determined to test that and see what difference it can make. Again, this is all about being responsive to the feedback we have received.

On the issue of sanctions that the hon. Lady mentioned, I know that the legal case she touched on is under consideration by Ministers elsewhere in the Department at the moment. No doubt we will come forward and say more about that in due course, but I want to be clear that it is not my intention or the Department’s intention to force anyone to do something that is not right for them. We are committed to personalised, tailored support that meets individual needs and aspirations. The Secretary of State will talk about that in more detail during the Budget debate later. A lot of that will be voluntary. I would hope that people will want to engage with universal support and will want to engage with Work Well, because this is about trying to help and support people. For people with health conditions, for example, this is a way in which we can work harder and tirelessly with them to help them get better. Work is of course an important determinant of better health outcomes. The White Paper is explicit in saying that we will move forward with this in a way that is appropriate for individuals. For those where work is not appropriate, they will not be expected to do it.

It is also important to set out for the House that there will be transitional cash protection in place. No one who currently has limited capability for work or work-related activity will lose out as they move to the new system. We are specifically protecting those with pregnancy risk or who are undergoing cancer treatment, and we are also keeping a contributory health and disability benefit. Of course, what I really want to do—this is key to all of the work I do in this role—is to work constructively with the hon. Lady and with disabled people and their representative groups to make sure that we get this reform right. This is the biggest welfare reform for over a decade, and we have to get this absolutely right.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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I warmly welcome the announcement of the Government’s new universal support programme. Does my hon. Friend agree that it will help disabled people in my constituency find an appropriate job, backed by £4,000 of resources per person? It will further enhance the exceptional work done by Disability Confident and the Barnstable Jobcentre Plus. Might he come to visit and see for himself?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I commend my hon. Friend for the work she does on the ground in her constituency, working constructively with the jobcentre and employers to help facilitate employment opportunities. I am really excited about the opportunities universal support will bring. We know from existing schemes that where people are supported in taking and then retaining roles, it is hugely powerful and effective in bettering their health and employment outcomes. That is precisely what we are doing through universal support with those 50,000 opportunities. I am excited to work with my hon. Friend on implementing that in her area, and I would of course be delighted to visit and see more of what is going on on the ground.

Pensions Dashboards (Prohibition of Indemnification) Bill

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson) for bringing forward this important Bill.

As a member of the Work and Pensions Committee, I suspect that I spend more time thinking about pensions than many. Trust in pensions is key to ensuring that people engage with saving for later life and adequately prepare for their old age. A Which? survey found that only 23% of people trust long-term financial products such as pensions. The Bill will strengthen people’s trust in the new pensions dashboards and ensure that people feel safe to engage with this useful new tool and gain a greater understanding of their pension.

Pensions dashboards are hoped to be a game-changer for engagement with pension pots and financial literacy when it comes to retirement plans. It is not new that we have poor financial literacy in the UK. Many people do not take advantage of the range of savings and investment products available to them because of a mix of a lack of trust and a lack of education about the benefits. As a former maths teacher, I put on the record my full support for our Prime Minister’s ambition for everyone to study maths to the age of 18, although I very much hope that it will be the practical, day-to-day mathematics that tackles the challenges of compound interest, debt management and, indeed, pensions.

People see pensions as something shrouded in mystery. The lack of literacy around pensions is exacerbated by their constantly being put at the bottom of people’s priority lists. Understandably, people are primarily focused on day-to-day spending, clearing debts, saving for homes and other big expenses and caring for family members. However, we all know that the earlier people engage with pensions, the more they can save and the greater the benefits.

Since 2012 , the Government’s automatic workplace enrolment scheme has proved very successful and ensures that younger people, who are likely not to be thinking of their retirement 40 or so years in the future, are saving from an early point. Although more people are saving through the scheme, it also creates a sense of security and that they do not need to engage with their pensions as they are already providing for their future. Such over-optimism in respect of their savings prevents people from engaging in the time-consuming process of consolidating pensions. These days, people change jobs with much more frequency and accrue lots of small pots. During the summer recess, when I had a little time on my hands, I thought I would try to consolidate my pensions; to date, I have not successfully consolidated a single pension, despite three of them relating to my work in this House.

By making pension savings more transparent, we will give people a clearer idea of their existing situation. They can then make informed decisions about where they put their money. Since covid-19, more and more of our population are confident in the use of online tools in place of physical access to banks. In fact, 23% of British people use Google as their first port of call for financial information, while 16% say they use social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as their source.

Currently, people with pensions worth more than £100,000 are more likely to engage regularly with their pension. Future planning should not only be the province of the wealthy. Once the dashboard is up and running—according to the MaPS, the pension dashboard programme is coming shortly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle has assured us, with the system currently being tested—I hope that savers across society use it and take control of their savings.

I also hope that the dashboard will help to alleviate savings gaps. Currently, the value of women’s pensions are 60% of the value of men’s on retirement. Women have historically had to work harder throughout their working lives to earn the same amount. Although the situation is improving, women still face greater caring responsibilities, which often lead to their taking time out of the workforce or cutting back on their hours.

I hope that the introduction of pensions dashboards will encourage more people to engage in planning for their future, because even in the current financial climate it is important that people are educated about their options for the future. The Bill will give people confidence that their money is safe and ensure that they are given accurate information and can make informed decisions about how to save for their hard-earned pensions.

Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Friday 28th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) and thank her for bringing forward such an important piece of legislation. As she rightly said, some of the most harrowing casework we deal with is often in this area.

North Devon Against Domestic Abuse reports that one in five women and one in seven men have reported experiencing economic abuse as part of a relationship. That can lead to severe financial hardship, debt and emotional distress. The charity offers advice and support to victims of domestic abuse across North Devon as they rebuild their lives, and helps them to build financial resilience and learn money management skills.

Economic abuse is when perpetrators seek to reinforce or create economic dependency and instability, limiting victims’ choices and their ability to access safety. It does not require physical proximity, so it can continue after separation. Economic abuse was defined in the landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and can include taking control of family finances and not keeping partners aware of bills or debts, refusing to contribute or taking victims’ contributions beyond a fair balance, and forbidding the claiming of universal credit or benefits, or insisting they are put into an account that victims do not have access to, to name but a few.

Those actions can all leave lasting marks on victims who are trying to rebuild their lives and their families’ lives. Pushing them into a situation where they are financially exposed to their abuser can impact their ability to build a healthy life. It is also a continuation of abuse, using children as a tool to cause distress. Testimony shows that the legacy of that abuse can lead to some victims’ not pursuing the legal entitlements of their children. One said, “I haven’t arranged any child maintenance because I don’t want to have any aggravation from him.”

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Evans
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My hon. Friend is making a fantastic start to her speech. That is exactly why we need the Bill: it circumvents that and protects victims of confirmed domestic violence, so they do not have to go through that heartache and stress, and do not have to front up against difficult perpetrators of domestic violence. It makes sure that there is stability and safety for them and the family that they are now supporting.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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I agree with my hon. Friend; what we hear is really harrowing. The next testimony says, “The Child Maintenance Service is his last avenue of financial control, so he uses this wherever possible.”

I also sit on the Work and Pensions Committee, which is currently hearing evidence on this issue. One person said, “In my case, my ex-partner declared an income of less than £8,000 per annum, yet sent my children postcards from all his holidays—skiing in France and Italy, two three-week trips across the whole of the USA, spa weekends and city breaks. Then they had postcards of their father’s new cars: a McLaren and a Bentley. He moved into a three-bedroom house in a desirable area of Cheshire. How on earth is that possible for someone who earns less than £8,000 a year? Meanwhile, I was struggling to pay my utility bills, let alone their after-school clubs and school trips. I am left wondering why none of the evidence was taken into consideration by the CMS.” Some joined-up thinking and common sense is needed. Even when the other parent provides ample evidence that income is being under-reported, the paying parent is simply taken at their word.

We often hear about women experiencing that, but the Select Committee has heard equally harrowing evidence from gentlemen. One said:

“I have 3 children from my previous relationship. Despite the narrative often spun, I am not a dead beat dad, and not all mothers are saints deserving of children. I am a loving father who is paying the consequences of a malicious partner who is using a government tool as part of her domestic violence campaign. During this relationship I was subject to physical, psychological and financial damage… Since I fled, the physical aspect has ceased. Yet abuse at the hands of my ex-wife continues. I don’t report this flippantly. However, the vehicle for her abuse is the Child Maintenance Service, who she uses to continue to financially and psychologically control me from afar, while also denying me access to my children. I’m exhausted by the situation, and with the current cost of living crisis and constant squeeze on my finances, I can honestly say that if I commit suicide, it will be as a direct result of my ex-wife’s abuse in combination with the Child Maintenance Service.”

Although non-payment is not a new tool, it has been exacerbated during covid-19, as the non-resident parent has had increased opportunities to abuse the system, and there have been lower risks associated with that. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye has done great work to bring the Bill before us today, and I am delighted to support it, because it is an important step to alleviate the burden on families who have already experienced trauma, and puts the onus on the perpetrator, rather than the victims.

Oral Answers to Questions

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Monday 13th December 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Thérèse Coffey Portrait The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Dr Thérèse Coffey)
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Thanks to our taper rate cut and the increased work allowances announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, almost 2 million households will now benefit from a cash boost worth £1,000 a year on average. Thanks to diligent work by my officials, we have brought this change in a week earlier than planned, so that up to 500,000 more working people can get that extra boost before Christmas. We are also delivering today a less welcome early Christmas present to criminals who target our benefits system and steal from taxpayers, with a £500 million cash injection to root out fraudulent benefit claims and stop scammers. Finally and importantly, very much at the top of my mind today is the booster programme and the acceleration scheme. I am very pleased that our jobs army is going to become part of the jabs army, as DWP civil servants right across the country join the Government’s effort to get as many people boosted as possible.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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My right hon. Friend has already touched on the impact that the recent changes in the taper rate and work allowances will have on claimants’ net income, but will she expand on this? Also, will she consider a major advertising campaign to highlight that now is an excellent time to be in work?

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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My hon. Friend, who is of course on the Select Committee, is very wise in her suggestions. That is exactly the sort of communications that we will be doing in the coming months. This is particularly of interest for people on working tax credits, where we know that the cliff edges, which my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Karl MᶜCartney) mentioned, can be a real barrier to people working extra hours. Those sorts of communications programmes will be released as we continue to try to help more people into work and to progress in work as well.

Oral Answers to Questions

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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Very evidently, the plan for jobs is working. We are seeing more people on the payrolls than was happening pre-pandemic. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about some of the skills that may be required. I am conscious that many people who campaigned vigorously to stay in the European Union are still trying to use the excuse of leaving the European Union for why certain sectors are still under-supplied. The reality is that nearly 6 million people registered for the EU settlement scheme and they have an entitlement to live in this country if they so wish. I think there are some aspects of covid that are perhaps hindering people in coming back into the UK who are considering a return to their native countries. Let me say very clearly that we are working on this right across Government. We have the Prime Minister’s lifetime skills guarantee. We are encouraging people to consider swapping sectors, as is happening with aspects such as SWAPs—sector-based work academy programmes—for people who are unemployed. There are also the bootcamps for skills and the incentives to take on apprentices that have given been to employers right across the country. I can honestly assure the hon. Gentleman that the plan for jobs is certainly working.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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T4. North Devon still sees twice the number of jobseekers as pre-pandemic, yet employers across my constituency are desperate for staff of all skill levels. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to match jobseekers with vacancies?

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith).

I rise to speak in favour of the reasoned amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Ed Davey), and commit the SNP to voting for it when the House divides this evening. As well as speaking to that amendment, I wish to comment on the broader principles of the Bill. I am conscious that those watching our proceedings will perhaps be unaware of the consequences of the passing of this legislation, and especially of rushing it all through in the space of a couple of hours.

In short, as we all know, the Bill facilitates this Tory Government’s breaking yet another manifesto commitment —namely, by breaking the pensions triple lock, to which all parties in the House committed themselves at the election less than two years ago. The breaking of that manifesto pledge follows on from the Government’s scrapping the commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on the world’s poorest through our international aid budget, and now comes on top of the new Tory poll tax, which sees hard-working Scots having to endure a hike in national insurance to pay for the sorting out of the utter mess of England’s health and social care system. The Prime Minister is not known for keeping his promises, and the decision to suspend the triple lock will have dire consequences for pensioners.

As constituency MPs, we all know that the state pension is by far the largest source of income for UK pensioners, and the triple lock has kept it secure throughout the pandemic. To be blunt, the British Government’s decision to break its triple-lock promise is a betrayal and an unacceptable attack on pensioners’ incomes. What is more, this change will do nothing to stop recent indications that more pensioners are living in poverty. The proportion of pensioners on relative low income—that is, the percentage of pensioners in the UK living in households with net disposable income below 60% of the national median, after housing costs—rose from a historic low of 13% in 2011-12 to 18% in 2019-20.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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Does the hon. Gentleman recognise in his analysis that we took notice of pensioners’ needs last year? The triple lock is reliant on earnings being positive, and last year they were negative, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State took the opportunity to raise pensions, despite the fact that the terms of the triple lock were not met at that time.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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If the hon. Lady pays attention to the rest of my speech, she will understand that I am developing my argument because the UK state pension is so pitiful. That is the point I am addressing and I am sure she will make it in her speech, too.

The rise in the proportion of pensioners on relative low income followed a period of more than a decade during which the measure had been trending downwards from a high of 29% in 1998-99. The passing of the Bill will undo all that work.

Although the state pension is the biggest source of income for pensioners, House of Commons Library analysis shows that UK state pensions are the lowest as a proportion of pre-retirement wages of all our European neighbours. Pensioners throughout these islands receive around just a quarter of the average wage when they retire, whereas pensioners in Luxembourg and Austria receive 90% of the average working wage. According to the OECD’s latest analysis, the UK has an overall net replacement rate of 28.4% from mandatory pensions for an average earner. That is well below the OECD average of 58.6% and the EU average of 63.5%. It is simply not right that the UK devotes a smaller percentage of its GDP to state pensions and pensioner benefits than most other advanced economies.

The triple lock betrayal is yet another Tory-imposed austerity cut. The Commons Library briefing for this debate estimates that the British Government will take away £5 billion from pensioners in 2022-23 if the triple-lock elements of the state pension are uprated by 2.5% rather than 8.3%. Investment in the state pension is crucial, especially as many are still excluded from automatic enrolment in workplace pensions—although I acknowledge that some, but nowhere near enough, progress has been made on auto-enrolment.

Let me briefly develop that point a little further. The British Government’s failure to extend automatic enrolment to low-income earners and young people disproportionately impacts women, thereby worsening the already massive gender pension gap on these islands. That is before we even come to the issue of the Department for Work and Pensions’ maladministration with regard to 1950s-born women who, quite rightly, await to see what stage 2 of the ombudsman’s process will conclude. I very much hope it will do so soon.

Oral Answers to Questions

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Monday 8th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the jobcentre estate is adequately equipped to support an increased number of jobseekers.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the jobcentre estate is adequately equipped to support an increased number of jobseekers. [R]

Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers (Stockton South) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the jobcentre estate is adequately equipped to support an increased number of jobseekers.

--- Later in debate ---
Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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We are supporting people of all ages back into work in Aylesbury and beyond. The DWP has a network of 50-plus champions throughout our JCPs. These champions work with work coaches and stakeholders to focus help and support for the over-50s, highlighting the benefits of employing them and sharing best practice. Our plan for jobs provides new funding to ensure that everyone, including those 50 and over, get tailored support to build on their skills and move into work.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby [V]
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Many businesses in remote rural communities, as in North Devon, are a long way from a Jobcentre Plus, and therefore would not usually use the jobcentre to advertise vacancies, particularly given poor public transport. What assurances can my hon. Friend give that rural businesses will be actively engaged by Jobcentre Plus, as it is especially important that young people looking for work in such rural communities are able to access local jobs through the kickstart scheme?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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Our JCPs are engaged with local recovery plans, including in rural areas. They are essential to help people of all ages into work and help all communities to thrive. In North Devon, the DWP is funding the youth flow partnership with local businesses and the chambers of commerce to help young people engage with opportunities such as kickstart. I was delighted to join my hon. Friend at her recent event with local businesses in her community to discuss kickstart and how we can tailor those opportunities for every area.