On 6th June 2022 the Bishop of Durham asked a question and a follow-up to Government, about its child poverty strategy:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the review by the Church of England Making the case for a child poverty strategy, published on 28 April; and what plans they have, if any, to introduce a child poverty strategy.
Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con, Under-secretary of State – Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Department of Work and Pensions): My Lords, I confirm that no specific assessment has been made. We are completely committed to supporting low-income families and will spend £108 billion on welfare support for people of working age in 2022-23. With record vacancies across the UK, our focus is firmly on supporting parents to move into work and to progress in work wherever possible, as we know that this is the best way to tackle poverty, particularly where work is full-time.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: I thank the Minister for her reply. In the Church of England child poverty review, we present a consensus from across the political spectrum that child poverty is a complex issue that must be strategically dealt with across all departments but in a locally facing way. One group cautioned in its response that the feasibility and success of a child poverty strategy will be dependent on the will of the Government, so my question is this: is there enough will to produce a specific, targeted strategy that aims to end child poverty?
Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con): My Lords, Ministers and officials engage regularly across government to ensure a co-ordinated approach to this very important issue. We keep all priorities under review, but, as I said, with almost 1.3 million vacancies across the UK, our focus is to ensure that we can fill those vacancies with people who can work so that they can become independent. The latest available data on in-work poverty shows that, in 2019-20, a child in a home where adults were working was around six times less likely to be in absolute poverty before housing costs.
Extracts from the contributions that followed:
Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle: My Lords, the report highlights the widespread agreement among concerned organisations that the two-child limit is a significant cause of child poverty. Given that this is an explicitly punitive measure directed at children, should the Government not be taking this advice to end that policy?
Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con): It is important that we support families. I note the point the noble Baroness makes about the two-child policy, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, but it is important that we are fair to the many working families who do not see their budgets rise when they have more children. This does not apply to child benefit nor to the disabled child element, and statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2021, 85% of all families with dependent children had a maximum of two children, and for lone parents the figure was 86%.
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