On 13th July 2017, Lord Bird asked the Government “what steps they are taking to prioritise their focus on the root causes of poverty and disadvantage.” The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev. Nick Baines, asked a question in follow up.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a problem here, in that we want to applaud the employment figures released today but, at the same time, we need to recognise that it is people in employment who are using our food banks, where the numbers have rocketed in the last few years? Therefore, the simple statement that we applaud the rise in employment disguises a deeper problem.
Baroness Buscombe: I entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate that it is not a question of just making statements; it is more about making sure that we do the right things from the bottom up. We have to take on board the fact that we continue to spend over £90 billion a year on benefits for people of working age but that targets to put more into that area have not worked in the past. The reality is that we know that children in families where no one works are significantly more disadvantaged and achieve poorer outcomes, and it is right that we focus on improving the long-term outcomes for those children. Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families provides a framework for a continued focus on tackling worklessness. For those in work, we have introduced major reforms to make work pay, and we are introducing universal credit to strengthen incentives for parents to move into and progress in work.