Live Work and Pensions Questions House of Commons

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Live Work and Pensions Questions

Live coverage of questions in the House of Commons to the Work and Pensions secretary Damian Green and his ministerial team.

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teachers and a review of services for children. Join me, Christina


Cooper, for a round-up of the day in both Houses of Parliament at 11pm.


First, questions to the House and pensions secretary Damian Green and


his team of ministers. Order, order, questions to the


Secretary of State for Work and Pensions of Mr Gerald Jones. Where


is the fella? Not here? Mr petered out. -- Peter Dowd. Number two. The


Government supports those who aspire to be their own boss. There are


nearly 800,000 more self-employed people in the UK labour market since


2010 and 129,000 more in the last year alone. We monitor and review


the impact of self-employment on the wider labour market and benefits


system. A Citizens Advice be a report in August 2015 said there


were as many as 460,000 people in self-employment costing hundreds of


millions of pounds in lost revenue. Isn't it time the Secretary of State


started tackling exploitative companies, many with lucrative


public sector contracts, who are forcing staff down the


self-employment would rather than handling disabled people? The


honourable gentleman is right that there should not be exploitation of


workers, particularly of. Employment, but he will have noticed


the Government is on that particular case, it set up the Matthew Taylor


Ruby was specifically to explore alternative employment structures,


considering how those rules need to be altered to keep pace with changes


in the way people work in the modern economy, and I think if he is


characterising the growth of self-employment as in some way


harmful to the jobs market I would disagree with him about that. I


think the new enterprise allowance is proving successful in making sure


that people who want to work for themselves can work for themselves,


and I am sure he, like me, would welcome the fact that in his own


constituency since 2015 self-employment is up by 7% and the


claimant count in the last year has fallen by 12%. Happy New Year to


you, Mr Speaker. Does my right honourable friend agree with me that


rather than denigrating people who are becoming self-employed, we


should be celebrating the fact? They are taking a risk that many others


are not and will my right honourable friend make it as easy as possible


for them to take on new employees and become employers themselves? I


completely agree with my honourable friend. I have already mentioned the


new enterprise allowance which is specifically designed to help those


who may have been claiming benefits to stop claiming benefits, to set up


their own business and indeed to carry on and employ others in a way


that I would hope on all sides of the House we would welcome. This


scheme is proving extremely successful, a survey published last


year showed 80% of businesses started with the new enterprise


allowance and were still trading, more than twice as effective as


those leaving the old jobseeker's allowance benefit in terms of


keeping people off benefits, so it is doing good work. Thank you, Mr


Speaker, happy New Year. Can the Secretary of State ensure that there


is much closer cooperation between the investigation service and local


authorities when prosecuting abusers including on self-employment status


so that councils can be confident that when they report potential


scams, including by employers, they are properly followed up? I am happy


to take the right honourable lady's message and pass that on to the


relevant bodies both councils and the fraud enforcement surface,


because of course self-employment is a good thing for the -- but fraud


involving any employment is wrong and we must get ever more effective


at combating that. I am sure the Secretary of State would agree that


online opportunities are giving many people a chance to set up a business


and would he agree that schemes like the Pop Up Shop that Torbay Council


ran to help micro-businesses onto the high street is what we should


look at rather than the negative impressions given by the other side?


I very much agree and I welcome Torbay's Pop Up Shop experiment. I


had one in my constituency a couple of years ago and it proved very


successful in allowing micro-businesses to start and


develop, to become larger businesses, therefore creating more


employment as well, so I am delighted to hear what is happening


in Torbay. Many self-employed people don't earn a great deal of money and


will be losing out by cuts to tax credits and the introduction of


universal credit. Shouldn't the Government be supporting those who


go self-employed? I'm sorry if I have not wished you happy New Year


publicly, Mr Speaker, clearly it is a compulsory part of this questions


and I do it publicly as well! I don't agree with the honourable


gentleman in his characterisation about self-employed earners and


universal credit. Universal credit reduces poverty by making work pay,


it supports claimants both to enter work but also then to be able to


keep some of their benefits while they are at work if they are not


receiving or earning very much money. Universal credit does the


opposite of what he says, it helps people who are getting into work for


the first time. Isn't the biggest trend in self-employment the massive


increase in women who are self-employed? 70% of those newly


self-employed in 2014 were women, and yet self-employment is the area


where the wage gap is biggest. According to the OECD, self-employed


men earned ?17,000 a year on average, while average earnings for


self-employed women stood at 9800. We know from his own department's


figures that women are less likely to access loans and so on.


Employment. What is he doing to deal with this gender inequality in


self-employment? I agree that gender inequality in pay generally is an


issue that we need to do more about and self-employment is one part of


that. That is why we have introduced things like the new enterprise


allowance which allows people, she says it is only men that take it up,


that is patented not true. She says it is disproportionately men that


take it up, I would urge more potential women entrepreneurs to


take it up, we are improving the enterprise allowance later this year


to make sure that the men touring and advice goes on for longer so


that more people, both men and women, will be able to benefit from


the Freedom of being able to start, set up and run their own business,


which millions of people want to do. Mr Speaker, Resolution Foundation


data shows that self-employment accounts for 81% of the net change


in employment since 2008. The Government's plans to abolish class


to national insurance contributions could lead low income self-employed


women paying five times as much to access maternity allowance. Given


that nearly 2 million self-employed workers earn less than the national


living wage, why has the Government decided to make Social Security


support harder to access for so many of Britain's's entrepreneurs? They


haven't, and can I update the honourable lady's figures, which I


know she has quoted before? Actually, since 2010, 20 9% of the


increase has been self-employment, and in the last 12 months... I know,


I am giving her more up-to-date figures, over the past year 38% of


the increase in employment has been self-employment, so the figure is


not as she suggests, and as I said in answer to one of her colleagues,


the whole point of universal credit is that people, whether through


self-employment or employment, will be able to keep their income, we


have reduced the tape are so less of their income is lost when they go up


the earning scale and get into work, so I'm afraid the honourable lady


simply misunderstands what is happening in the welfare system.


Number three, Mr Speaker. Minister Penny Mordaunt. This year we are due


to spend 1.9 billion on supporting ill and disabled children to the


disability living allowance. We have rules in place to grant immediate


access to the benefit of those who are terminally ill. Thank you, Mr


Speaker. Can I also add my happy New Year to you, Mr Speaker. Can I thank


the Minister for her answer. Indeed, the family resource survey published


last year showed there were nearly 1 million disabled children, a 20%


increase over the last ten years. Can my honourable friend outline


what measures the Government has taken to take account of this


increase so that these children get access to the support and specialist


equipment that they require? Local authorities and Clinical


Commissioning Groups have a requirement to meet the needs of


children with a special education need or disability, including


providing specialist equipment, but in the last few months my department


has set up a children and Young Persons Forum to set up -- to


understand the need that is out there greater, and she will know


from work that I have done with one of the organisations she is involved


in that we are also looking to support charities, social


enterprises and businesses that are providing these much-needed


services. Many of us who like some of the elements when we first heard


it about the big society now quite like some of the things being


uttered in terms of the shared society. If it is going to work for


children and not just for the terminally ill but for people with


disabilities, and some disabilities are abilities, I am talking here


about autism, if it is really going to happen this time this programme


has got to have teeth, leadership and resources. Absolutely, and the


announcements made by the Prime Minister today are accompanied with


additional funding, and the approach that is being taken is to look at


every age range in society, so we have announcements that are going to


help children and young people, again I have outlined what my


department is doing to ensure that we are looking at their needs, as


well as new provision for those in the workplace.


Some children with disabilities get disabled student allowed on some of


those are not eligible for PIP or DLA, so why is the government


cutting DSA? I would be happy to look at any particular case that the


honourable gentleman has, but we are very conscious of the needs of


children and young people in particular, which is why we have set


up an additional forum. Yes, we are concerned about people in the


workplace, but if we get it right for children and young people,


including students, we will save the future ministerial teams problems.


So I am happy to look at any case the honourable gentleman has.


Michael Fabricant. You issue a papal order saying we don't have to say


happy new year, Mr Speaker? But happy new year anyway. Very welcome.


I appreciate the spirit of the honourable gentleman's observation.


With permission, I will not say happy new year again, but I will


answer questions four and 20 together. Evidence shows that being


in the right work is good for health and that being out of work can have


a detrimental effect on health. That is why I have launched the work,


health and disability green paper jointly with the Secretary of State


for Health. This expresses our intention to work with health care


professionals to support people to work and our current consultations


ask how we should best achieve this goal. Helen Stokes Lampard, who is


the chair of the Royal General College of General practitioners,


has spoken widely about the burden of work and general practitioners.


Notwithstanding that, what analysis has my right honourable friend done


on the effectiveness of fit notes and getting people back to work? I


am very keen on improving the effectiveness of fit notes in


getting back to work, and I take the point about the pressure on GPs.


That is specifically why, in the consultation document, we have


considered extending the possibility of issuing fit notes to other health


care professionals and I will be very interested to see the response


we get not just from those receiving the fit notes but also from the


health care professionals involved. I support my right honourable friend


on this policy, but does he agree with me that given the consultant to


whom a patient will be referred is a work coach, is it critical that they


have the training to deal with those hardest cases of unemployment,


particularly those with mental health problems? I do agree with my


honourable friend on that and I'm grateful for his support. I am happy


to reassure him that all work coaches complete a specific training


for their role, including a course which combines the knowledge, skills


and behaviour they need to deal with the people they work with,


specifically people who may have a mental health condition, because


obviously, work coaches need to have the skills to deal with the issues


that will arise from that. In Wrexham, one autistic constituent


had his DWP caseworker take his benefits away when he told them he


enjoyed a hobby as a disc jockey. He received a bill for a fictional


figure in vented by the DWP for the cost of income that had to be


recovered by them was that they work coach needs to assist individuals,


not penalise them. Will he please do better? Well, I don't know the


details of that case if the honourable gentleman would like to


write to me or the minister for disabled people, we will look at


that case. But I can assure him that the majority of cases that come


before work coaches, those work coaches do their best to help people


make the most of their lives, to get into employment or back into


employment, and that is at the heart of what we do. After the big cut in


employment support allowance takes place in April, the new work and


health programme is in place. Department be spending more or less


unemployment support for ESA claimants than is the case currently


under the Work Programme and work choice? I can assure the right


honourable gentleman that as part of the changes, there is an extra ?330


million abroad programme for those who are on that group. We are going


to target support more effectively to ensure that as many as possible


can get back into work. There is a huge premium on helping ex-offenders


into work for them, for their families and reducing the cost to


society. Jobcentre plus has a dedicated resource of 150 prison


work coaches helping support prisoners nationwide. I am grateful


to the minister for his response. He will know from his own experience


and from an excellent report from the Department for Work and Pensions


select committee about supporting offenders that getting a job is one


of the best means of preventing reoffending. As well as the work


that is being done, will he look to see what can be done jointly with


the Ministry of Justice to ensure there is better collaboration


between Jobcentres and community rehabilitation companies to join up


those agencies? We do work closely with the Ministry of Justice and


numerous joint initiatives locally and nationally, and row supporting


the elements of the Ministry of Justice's new employment strategy.


But I do recognise that we need to improve opportunities for


ex-offenders, so I welcome his and his committee's report, which we


will respond to in due course. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of prisons


and probation did not find that a single prisoner had been helped into


employment ID through the gate provision, which is the government's


flagship programme for seeing a step change in rehabilitation. Did that


surprise him and what is his response? My response firstly is


that this has been a challenge for successive governments for many


years. We do need to do better. There is good work going on.


Ultimately, to improve the situation, we need more prisoners to


be work ready and we need more employers to be willing to take on a


prisoner. Having governors control skills provision in prisons will


have some beneficial effect on work readiness, but we also need to


encourage more employers to step forward. Things like the seeing


potential programme can help. Other things have a part to play, but we


need to do more. The minister will be aware that people on the autistic


spectrum are often disproportionately represented in


the criminal justice system, and people with autism have great


difficulty finding jobs. Could he reassure me that when he looks at


the health and disability green paper consultation, he will look


specifically at people with autism and ex-offenders with autism, is


only 16% of people with autism are currently in employment? My right


honourable friend highlights an important point. I know that my


friend, the minister for people with disabilities, will indeed be looking


at the issue of people with autism. It also highlights the point that


one of the key determinants for post-release employment is what


happened with that individual before they were convicted. It highlights


again the importance of making sure nobody is left behind. We pay


particular attention to all of these groups who face particularly


difficult barriers to getting into work. Our select committee report


found reoffending costs ?15 billion to the public purse, and yet fewer


than one in four ex-offenders go on to find work. Alarmingly,


Westminster Council's report before Christmas of rough sleeping found


that one in three of their rough sleepers had come directly from


prison. Why is it that this department is unable to provide


proper transitional support for people leaving prison to make sure


they are not on the streets and they are assisted? It is true that when


you talk about ex-offenders and people on release from prison, it is


vital to have help with finances, employment and housing. Among the


things we have done to help on housing and making sure there are no


waiting days, and also being able to keep the housing element in


universal credit open for 26 weeks rather than 13 for certain types of


prisoner, in order to enhance the support. If I were allowed to wish


you a happy new year, I would! In the meantime, pension Wise provides


guidance to people aged 50 and over with the defined contrition pension


pot on their options under the pension fix abilities. We are


consulting on a single finance guidance body to provide debt advice


and guidance on money and pensions. In thanking the minister for his


reply, I can't resist pushing him and the whole House a happy New


Year's Eve. More specifically, can he said what information the


government are providing in terms of what people know about their


entitlement to the state pension? Attack Mata for his salutations and


for that question. -- I thank my honourable friend. The DWP continue


to run a multichannel communication campaign that includes radio, press,


social media and other channels to raise awareness of the new state


pension. As well as directing people to information on golf .uk --

:22:05.:22:14., the priority has been to provide personalised information to


individuals so they know what they are likely to get. Since 2016, the


online check your state pension service has had over 2.1 million


views. The minister's warm words do nothing to reassure women in my


constituency with whom the government's advice and pensions has


a terrible reputation because of the injustices that Waspy women face. If


the government can do one thing, it would be to look again at those 2011


changes and give justice to those women. The honourable lady will be


aware that there are many issues involving the Waspi women. A lot of


time and resources were spent on informing them of the situation


including millions of letters from 2011. Happy new year to you and


everyone in the House, particularly the Waspi women. Mr Speaker, a


leaflet recently published by the Treasury named ways to save 2017


mentioned the junior ice, the helped by ISA, premium Bonds, the cash and


stocks and shares ISA and the new lifetime Isil, but completely omits


pensions. This is a disgrace and confirms my fear is that the


government have downgraded the role of pensions and are using the


gimmick of Waspi to distract from pensionable savings. Does the


minister agree that Isas are the best way -- pensionable savings are


the best way to save for retirement? I totally disagree with the


honourable gentleman's analysis of the government's importance for


pensions. A lot of effort goes into communicating with people on


television and elsewhere about auto enrolment and it is one of the great


successes of this government and the coalition before of how successful


auto enrolment is that so many people, and I hope that continues. I


know the minister agrees on the need for greater transparency in the


pensions world, particularly around costs. He will be keen to address


the criticism of the government for failing to ensure that people get


the best possible returns. The Financial Conduct Authority's report


in November said there were a number of failures in the asset management


industry around the transparency of costs and charges being applied to


pension investments, with weak price competition having a material impact


upon investment returns. Labour is committed to implementing all of the


FSA's recommendations. Is the government? Yes. Question number


seven. There are 100,000 fewer children in relative poverty than in


2010, and 557,000 fewer children living in workless households. The


forthcoming green paper on social justice will identify and address


the root causes of poverty, building on the two statutory indicators set


out in the welfare reform and work act 2016, namely worklessness and


educational attainment. Stella Creasy. I note that the minister


used the figures about relative poverty. I am a bit surprised,


because we know that absolute poverty in this country has been in


decline for the last ten years, except the children, were half a


million more children in this country and living in absolute


poverty since 2010. What responsibility does the minister


think this government and the previous government have for that?


The responsibility the government has is to make sure as many


households as possible have work, because for children in particular,


working age adults in nonworking families were almost four times more


likely to be living on a low income and the child poverty transition's


report of June 2015 found that 74% of poor children in workless


families that moved into full employment exited poverty. That is


what we can do and what we are doing for children who have been in


poverty. As she neglected to say, there are 500,000 fewer people


living in absolute poverty than in 2010. The key point is about getting


people into work. I hope that she, as a reasonable member of the


opposition party, would acknowledge that the fact that we have


historically low levels of unemployment is the best thing we


can do for children. It is the best way to get children and the


households they live in out of poverty. In her own constituency, I


am happy to tell her that the claimant count since 2010 is down by


47%. And the youth claimant count has fallen by 2% in the past year.


One of us in the chamber can learn about brevity. However the problem


presenting my surgeries, scratch the surface and nine times out of ten,


the swiftest cause a poverty is family breakdown and that is a


harder nut to crack. It is, and that is why this government and


previously the Coalition Government, has decided that having a simple


income -based measure and target is not the right way. We need to look


at the root causes of child poverty and having a range of indicators and


targets, is the best way. One of which is family breakdown and that


is the best way we have as few as possible children living in


poverty... Happy New Year to you, Mr Speaker. The Secretary of State has


talked about tackling poverty, but because of the change in universal


credit, families will be ?1000 worse off, and some ?2500 worse off. Why


does the government continued to downplay the role of income poverty


in determining children's future health, job prospects and life


expectancy, in spite of all the evidence? I am not downplaying, I am


talking about the underlying causes of actually making sure we take a


range of measures across the board, which actually help to eradicate


child poverty. That, I think is the only sensible way to do it. Simply


focusing on individual incomes or individual benefits is not the whole


picture. It doesn't represent the realistic picture. We need to be


more wide-ranging in the way we approach it. The Prime Minister has


been talking about the pressures faced by people getting by on low


and average incomes and our shared responsibilities to them. Fine


sentiments, but does the Secretary of State admit they sound hollow


when the government's plans to cut incomes for those families who were


just getting by. Does he accept the government has a responsibility to


support parents who are working hard in average low paid judge, not cut


their already overstretched incomes? I would point out to the honourable


lady, this government's introduction of the national living wage gave the


lowest earners their fastest pay rise in 20 years last year. An


increase of 6%. It is an example of a government measure introduced by


employers. I cannot think of better early example of the shared society.


What assessment has the government made of how many more children will


be pushed into poverty given the cuts to the work allowance under


universal credit? As I have said to a number of honourable members on


all sides, the solution to this lies in a wider range of issues. We have


the social Justice Green paper, which I'm sure we will have many


discussions about in this House and elsewhere. At the root of it, it is


making sure as many people as possible can earn a salary and can


work. I am sure she will welcome the fact that in her own constituency


since 2010, unemployment is down 53%. Thousands of families able to


work and control their own lives and work their way out of poverty. She


should welcome that. It is a poor government that fails to understand


the value of children. In addition to the universal credit work


allowance cuts, this government has abolished the child poverty unit,


frozen Social Security payments and is removing tax credits from third


and subsequent children. Does he think child poverty will go up or


down as a result of these measures? I have given the honourable lady a


number of figures relating to addle poverty and child poverty. The fact


is, since 2010, there are 100,000 fewer children in relative poverty.


I would also hope she would welcome the fact the work of the Child


poverty unit is now covering a wide range of policies and is based


inside the Department for Work and Pensions. Question May, Mr Speaker.


With permission, I will answer questions eight, 14 and 21 together.


This government is committed to supporting new enterprises. We are


building on the success of the new enterprise allowance which has


supported 96,000 claimants to start a new business. From this year,


eligibility will be extended to include universal credit claimants


who are already self-employed. Would my right honourable friend look


again at small businesses and self-employed to use on my systems


for their tax affairs and does he recognise often these people don't


have equipment, knowledge of broadband capacity to download these


complex forms and it costs time and money? I am happy to tell my


honourable friend, tax affairs are not my direct responsibility but the


Treasury will have heard what he said. But Jobcentre Pelous is always


keen to help particularly, small businesses with individual problems


they may have, such as the use of online forms. Unemployment has


continue to fall in Cornwall to record low levels of the county now


having 61,000 self-employed people. Does he agree it is only under a


Conservative Government we can continue to increase employment in


Cornwall and continue and further improve the creation of small


businesses in those communities? He makes a very good point. In North


Cornwall in his constituency, self-employment has increased by


7.6% since 2010. As I have said in answer to previous questions, the UK


labour market is in its strongest position for years. The best way to


promote new and growth of jobs is to promote new and growth in small


businesses and I am delighted to know it is going so well in


Cornwall. Would he agree universal credit can help the self-employed,


along with the other forms that got Demens is putting forward in


benefits for the self-employed, because universal credit can help


people who are working as well as trying to set up on their own? One


of the differences about universal credit and the previous benefits, it


is replacing, is people can continue to receive it when they are still in


work and it is good at coping but people who may have fluctuating


earnings, which a lot of self-employed people do, because it


can be flexible enough to adjust to that. The introduction of universal


credit is another brick of the edifice of helping people set up


their own businesses. What does the Secretary of State going to do about


the people who are classified as self-employed, because of the


contracts of employment they have, not because they have set up their


own business, but because their employer requires them to sign a


contract saying they are self-employed, which means they get


Nizic pay, no annual leave? How will he help them? I agree this is an


issue and this is why we have set up the Matthew Taylor review.


Investigating the new types of employment structures that have been


set up in recent news and making sure employment laws keep up with


new types of employment. Absolutely, I agree there is an issue and that


is why we have set up the Matthew Taylor review. Question nine, Mr


Speaker. The number of people in employment has increased by 104,000


in the past year. The National living wage has given people a pay


rise, helping to build an economy that works for all. Has the Minister


considered the implication of the national living wage Raqqa wage


coming in so quickly on small and medium-size businesses, particularly


those in the manufacturing sector? What would he say to those


businesses who will not be able to adjust in time or will be profitable


because it looks like it is being brought in so quickly? It is right


everybody should be able to benefit from strong economy, but as well as


introducing the national living wage, the government has announced


plans to reduce corporation tax further to 17% and increased the


employment allowance which could be worth up to ?3000 a year. Isn't it


perverse of the government to have reduced work allowance and universal


credit at the same time as we have seen the increases in the national


living wage, so the overall benefit to individuals in work is reduced?


The government has done a range of things. Universal credit is a


completely different benefit system from the legacy benefits that it


replaces. It doesn't make sense to make a direct comparison against tax


credits. You have to see it in the context greater help with childcare


and that the national living wage. Band with an increased income tax


personal allowance means you get to keep more of what you learn as well.


When the national living wage was introduced, the Office for Budget


Responsibility said it would cost 60,000 jobs in the economy. Does the


Minister think it is a price worth paying or is it another forecaster


custom expert economists are we should be ignoring? My honourable


friend is correct about the OBR's projection, but he will have noticed


it came in the context of projection of employment growth which was


larger. Question Number Ten. We are investing significant resources


including increased coverage of talking therapy services by 600,000


a year by 2020. Mental health is a key part of our green paper in


improving lives which we are consulting on. Can I thank members


on all sides of this House who came to our drop-in event on the Green


paper and are helping with the consultation. I welcome her response


and also the intervention of the Prime Minister today on the subject


of mental health. Would the Minister agree in order to best support those


with mental health conditions into the workplace, we need to transform


the way in which we deliver mental health for young people before they


reach working age. I agree with my honourable friend absolutely. When I


ask health care professionals working in DWP services, what is the


single most significant health care intervention that would be


transformative, it is mental health support services for young people.


The Prime Minister's announcement on that today is very welcome. The


five-year forward view on mental health which was released a year ago


had two specific recommendations for the Department of work and pension


is. One of which included employment support. Can the Minister update the


House as to the progress on that specific recommendation? There were


two particular targets, but there are a range of initiatives the


Department has set out. Good progress has been made on all of


those fronts, including developing specific mental health support for


services we run, like access to work. There has been considerable


work going on and the Prime Minister made reference to that today. She


also said we need to dig up the pace on this issue and I agree with her.


The proposed closure of eight Glasgow Jobcentres resulting in


increased travel times, introduces further barriers for people with


mental health conditions who are seeking help into work. How will the


Minister ensure people with mental health conditions can continue to


receive the help they need? My right honourable friend, the Minister for


employment, has met all of the MPs who are concerned with that


particular vocation across Glasgow. Also, the Minister for welfare


reform, my honourable friend, has also met with Scottish ministers on


this particular issue. We are very aware of the concerns members have


raised and if she has any subsequent comments to make, she is more than


welcome to have meetings with either myself or my colleagues. People with


mental health conditions are more likely to fail the work capability


sextant and to be sanctioned. At the same time we know from independent


research how damaging both were capable assessments and sanctions


are for mental health. With the announcements today, when will the


government take responsibility for the impact on policies on mental


health and make sure that support is available from trained mental health


professionals for claimants of mental health conditions and will


the Secretary of State committed to scrap the work capability assessment


and punitive sanctions, as a Labour has? I would refer the honourable


lady to three things. First of all, the Secretary of State speech where


he announced his focus on the particular issues of sanctions for


people with mental health conditions. The Prime Minister's


statement today as well. I would also point to the green paper, and


major tenant of that is that we are consulting on the work capability


assessment. A Labour policy which is not delivering. I am pleased that


enormous numbers of Labour MPs came to our drop-in numbers and will be


helping us in that consultation. It is an important issue and we should


get it right. Number 11, please, Mr Speaker. Over


93.5% of assessments and over 90% of work capability assessments are


deemed acceptable through independent audit. There was not


deemed acceptable are returned to the provided to be reworked. And we


maintain records and they are held to account through their contact.


With the Minister include the use of body worn cameras which would


include the accuracy of the much disputed health reports. It would


safeguard claimants and assessors and it is proving very successful


when in use by emergency services across the UK. There are detailed


improvement plans, but one of the things that is being looked at is


how assessments are recorded. If the honourable lady would like to write


to meet with any specific suggestions, I will be happy to look


at them. The vast majority of successful appeals are because of


additional, late submitted evidence, so what more can be done to access


and share medical evidence between professionals ahead of the decision?


My honourable friend is absolutely right the department has carried out


a number of pilot exercises to look at the more lenient of the early


stages of assessment to give people time to get that health care


information in front of assessors. It is paying dividends and we hope


that will be rolled out. I would call on this question, the


honourable member for air Carrick Cumnock if she were standing, but


she is not, so I cannot. But she is standing now, so I will. Thank you,


Mr Speaker. Many of my constituents have been refused home assessments


and others have been unable to have their assessments recorded at home


for the DWP. Given the fact that 61% of 90,000 claimants who have


appealed against the decision at the tribunal period up to September 2016


won the case, would the minister commit to a root and branch review


of the assessment process? Although we are consulting on ESA, the green


paper consultation does afford us the ability to look at PIP


assessments and look at the journey that a person is going on. I had


previously said we are looking at what further we can do in terms of


recording assessments. If the honourable lady has cases where


people need home assessments and they are not getting them, I would


urge her to flag them with me. In my constituency those who are waiting


for their PIP appealed to go through are having to wait nine months to


have it heard. Given they receive no benefit during this period and can


lose their vital mobility car, will the Minister say what ever is the


department is going to make to speed up this process? I am sorry to hear


this is happening in the honourable gentleman's constituency. That is a


very unusual length of time to be waiting for an appeal and if he


would like to give me the details of those cases, I would be happy to


look at them. Number 13. Manageability is an independent


charity responsible for its own management information, including


the data it publishes. There are 70,000 more people with a mobility


car than there were in 2010. By constituent Evelyn Campbell had her


car removed on the 20th of December following a PIP assessment, leaving


her housebound and distressed over Christmas. It will take months for


her appeal to be heard and in the meantime her car has been sold. Is


this not another example of a policy from this government which is both


cruel and, given that 60% of PIP appeals are successful and the cars


have to be re-provided, it is a totally false economy. Those that do


lose their vehicle receive transitional support through motor


ability, including the right to buy their vehicle and a ?2000 lump sum.


Although only a small proportion of decisions are peeled and overturned,


I am exploring a range, that is of those going to appeal, not the


caseload, I am exploring a range of options and will be working closely


with them on this. The key point is that I do not think that the car


should be withdrawn until the appeal process has finished. As the


minister said it was only a small number, could she be encouraged to


look down that route? We are looking at this issue, we are also looking


at the issue of those who may wish to travel overseas for whatever


reason, whether it is a work reason, a travel option or some other


reason, and we are working very closely to see what can be done in


those instances. Topical question. Number one, sir. As part of the


comprehensive package of reforms to improve mental health support and by


the pro-minister this morning, my department will be undertaking an


expert led review over how best to ensure mental health of employees


can be best supported. This will include promoting best practice


amongst employers and making available free tools to businesses.


We will be conducting an internal review of discrimination in the


workplace against people with mental health conditions. This will build


on our green paper consultation to help build up the evidence base


around mental health. I welcome the fact 90,000 businesses have been


helped, put the Minister tell me how many of these are in Cornwall as a


whole? I also welcome those figures and I can tell my honourable friend


that the new enterprise allowance has helped create nearly 100 new


businesses in North Cornwall since it began. We move into a second


phase with improvements and it is encouraging that since it began over


one in five businesses supported by the NEA had been started by disabled


entrepreneurs. This is an extremely encouraging development. There is


consensus on the need to implement the SCA's recommendations on


transparency on pension scheme costs in full. We hope that is soon and we


will hold the government and the Minister to on that. Labour is


committed to the state pension triple lock, is the government? The


government is committed to the triple lock for the whole of this


Parliament. The District Council have been working proactively with


the DWP to support the roll-out of the full service of Universal


Credit. Although the council has committed resources to this work,


local people are still facing challenges. And the Secretary of


State assure me his department will urgently seek to resolve those


issues that have been raised by the council and other authorities? I am


happy to give my honourable friend that reassurance. He and I have been


exchanging correspondence on this. A letter he may not yet have had


offers him a meeting with my honourable friend the Minister for


employment. We want to work with local councils. The motor neurone


disease Association and Parkinson 's UK have welcomed proposals by the


government to scrap the assessments for people with severe, lifelong


conditions. The Secretary of State described it as pointless,


bureaucratic nonsense. Will the government agreed to scrap


reassessments in the same circumstances for people with


lifelong conditions for a PIP and continuing health care? I would say


that PIP is slightly different. For example, someone's needs might


increase and they will need a reassessment to receive more support


under PIP. What the green paper affords us the opportunity to do is


to look at all of these things together and there are opportunities


for PIP perhaps to have a lighter assessment, but we need to get dull


process right. I wrote to the pensions minister on the 16th of


December about my constituent Ruth Saunders who said there are certain


defined benefit pension schemes were increases are not being paid per


ounce pre-April 19 77. The point is there is discrimination and only


10-15% of companies are not paying these increases. This is one of the


burning injustice as the Prime Minister was talking about and I


have a meeting with him and my constituent to discuss it further.


The government have been reluctant to consider the arrangements for


what the women who have been disadvantaged. What action is the


Secretary of State taking at present and what changes is he proposing? As


the honourable gentleman will be aware the government has had a ?1.1


billion condition for Waspy women and this has been discussed in this


has very many times and the government has no plans to do


anything further in this respect. Can the Minister reassure a company


in my constituency that the work and health programme will not result in


a large reduction in the programme took up disabled people get back


into work? I can give my honourable friend those reassurances. We are


absolutely committed to closing the disability employment gap and we are


picking up the pace on not just the programmes that we are running, but


also asking businesses and employers to do more. On that very disability


employment gap, the government has pledged to halve it by 2020, yet


recently I would like to know what the government is doing to look at


the impact on the public sector of cuts in jobs. The human equality and


human rights commission has lost a third of its staff in redundancies.


The honourable gentleman will no that under this government and the


coalition the disability employment gap is closing. We recognise we need


to do more. I think the public sector can do more and part of that


is identifying particular roles that individuals can take up. This


government is picking up the pace on this issue and it is a much better


situation than existed under the previous Labour government. I


welcome over 1 million more women are in employment, but would my


honourable friend confirm what the government is doing to support women


with children who might find it difficult to return back to work


because of childcare responsibilities? I thank my


honourable friend for that question. Our aim is to help parents into a


job which fits around their care and responsibilities. Last year we spent


a record ?5 billion supporting parents with the cost of childcare


and this will rise to over 6 billion by 20 20. Finland has become the


first country in Europe to place unemployed citizens with


unconditional monthly sums to reduce poverty. When will the government


produce research regarding similar schemes? As I understand it is a


small pilot in a local area and I have read a lot and it is an


interesting idea. It suggests this kind of scheme is fantastically


expensive and some of the losers from it are those who are on the


lowest incomes at the moment. The polite response is I am unconvinced


by this proposal. Seasonal agricultural workers have benefited


from auto enrolment into pensions, but many accrue only small pension


pots. What can the government do to make sure that the bureaucratic


burden does not fall disproportionately on the employers


of these vital workers? My honourable friend has propped up a


very good point. The government has to balance between wanting as many


people as possible having pensions with economic sense and the impact


to employers. My officials have discussed this issue with the


National Farmers Union and the issue will be looked into in the course of


the 2017 review. How can the government meet its target to reduce


the disability unemployment gap, in fact to halve it, where it is


cutting back 80% resources available for that? How can it do it? Is it


not just empty words? The honourable gentleman is


confused. We are putting more resorts is into these initiatives


and also asking others to do more. Obviously we are consulting in the


green paper, but some of the announcements the Prime Minister has


made today included additional resources. We very much want to meet


that target and we are putting the resources and the policies in place


to do that. Last month I asked the government to introduce mandatory


video recording of all assessments because a constituent of mine in


Twickenham was treated with less respect than the character in the


fictional film I, Daniel Blake. When will mandatory video recording


commenced? We are looking at a range of issues to improve the assessment


process and experience of it in both PIP and ESA and recording of


assessments is one of those things, so we are looking at that. For many


young people, housing benefit is a lifeline, not a lifestyle choice.


When will the government clarify how their scheme will not see these


people lose vital support? The regulations regarding the removal of


housing benefit from 18 to 21 new roles will be published. We will


provide full details, particularly the exemptions, which we will


provide in March. I would like to say thank you to the schools and


businesses of Corby and Northamptonshire who provide work


experience for young people. These introductions to the world of work


are important civil ministers continued to make sure this remains


at the front of cross departmental discussions? We know one of the most


important things to be able to get a job is to have had a job and be in


work and demonstrate all of those employability skills. Specifically


with work experience placements at Jobcentre plus, on average people


spend 49 days longer in employment for having done one, so yes. Yvette


Cooper. Can I urge the secretary of State to personally review what is


happening to the moat ability scheme? 41,000 people have had their


cars taken away as the result of assessments, including a severely


disabled Castleford constituents who cannot get to work and may be about


to lose her job. And Pontefract constituents with metal rods in her


joints who cannot get out of the House and is at risk of into


depression as a result, on the day the Prime Minister raise mental


health injustice. Will he take seriously, the serious impact on


people's mental health of being isolated in this way? Happy to


assure the right honourable lady we are looking closely at the whole


moat ability scheme, which he knows is an independent charity and we


have formed a walking working group and we are looking at this


carefully. Following on from the question, from the member for


Pontefract and Castleford, my constituents who has limited


mobility because of a stroke received a moat ability car last


year and it was a lifetime -- lifeline. Last week it was removed


from her now she's struggling to get her children to school and then get


to work. She is appealing this decision and I hope she will win. In


the meantime she is finding it hard to manage her disability as well has


responsibilities as an employee and as a mother. Can the Minister look


at this as a case of urgency to make sure she gets the help and support


she needs? I will be happy to look at the particular case the


honourable lady raises. We are looking at both the issue in the


moat ability scheme but other issues as well, which mean people are not


able to take up work or travel opportunities. We have recently met


with moat ability on these issues. We hope very soon to be able to make


some announcements. Indicators of child poverty are important as the


Secretary of State early on, so our targets. Would he agree to adopt the


provisions in the bill presented which would establish a statutory


targets for the reduction of child poverty? I think that is the


old-fashioned approach, which isn't necessarily the best way forward.


Having the whole range of issues that can give child poverty


addressed is the best way to do it. I look forward to his response to


the social Justice Green paper that we will be publishing in the coming


months. In the London Borough of Wandsworth, last year there was a


25% increase in foodbank use. Shockingly, almost 50% of these


users are children. Does the government agree it is an absolute


disgrace and what will they do to assure us in this House today that


the children and adults of tooting shall no longer have to rely on food


banks? As I said to a previous question, the best route out of


poverty is work. One of the great successes of the economic policy of


this government has been more people are at work, women are at work and


fewer children are growing up in workless households than ever


before. I wish the Labour Party would accept that getting more


people into work, reducing unemployment is the best attack on


poverty any government can make. Stuart Malcolm Macdonald. It is now


four weeks since the employment minister promised members of


Parliament from Glasgow data on the new boundaries by which you want to


close half the city's Jobcentres. Where is the information? I did


indeed meet with the honourable gentleman and his colleagues and we


had a Westminster Hall debate. One of the things I committed to was an


online consultation and that is indeed proceeding, as I said to him.


When we met, if there is other information they want to bring


forward, I am sure they will do so. There are 13,000 children in my


constituency of Bradford East living in poverty, which is almost a third


of the total poverty figure for the whole district. Can the Minister


answer this question and explain to my constituents, his decision to


close the child poverty unit? The child poverty unit, the main


function of the child poverty unit was to support ministers in meeting


the 2010 act, which has now been superseded by the 2016 act, which


the response to which, the response specifically to poverty is being led


by my department so be unit is now working inside the Department for


Work and Pensions. That is the straightforward answer to his


question. Can the Secretary of State tell us if he has any New Year 's


resolutions? Perhaps he could resolve to make sure that no one is


sanctioned at Christmas and will he review the operations of his


department, as I asked him before Christmas, to make sure nobody goes


without over the festive period? My New Year's resolution is to make


sure my department continues its successful work in getting ever more


people into work and making sure we have a benefit system that helps


people get into work and the pension system that provides security and


dignity in old age. Order. Urgent question, Mr Peter Kyle. I would


like to ask the Secretary of State for Justice to make a statement on


the emergency review to determine how to ban perpetrators of domestic


violence from directly cross-examining their victims within


the family