This extra support was announced by the Chancellor as a temporary measure in March 2020 to provide additional support those likely to be facing the most financial disruption as a result of the public health emergency. Alongside the temporary increase to Universal Credit and Tax Credits, the Government invested over £352 billion in measures to create, support and protect jobs and businesses, introduced mortgage holidays and additional support for renters, and worked with energy suppliers to protect those struggling with energy bills.
In the 10 years prior to the pandemic – employment was at record high levels, thanks to the Government’s careful handling of the economy. This allowed the Government to provide an unprecedented response over the past eighteen months. Now with nearly all restrictions lifted and our recovery gathering pace, it’s right that focus is switched to getting people back into work and improving their prospects. To support this the Government announced a multi-billion-pound Plan for Jobs.
I am encouraged to see this already delivering for those who have been affected by the pandemic including, for example, through the £2 billion Kickstart scheme, which has already seen over 263,000 approved roles created from a range of different sectors for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit, with over 50,000 young people already in Kickstart roles. This will give young people the practical experience that we know is so crucial in securing sustainable employment. Furthermore, I welcome the £2.9 billion Restart scheme which will provide intensive help to over a million jobseekers who have been out of work for more than a year.
The recent debate enabled my ministerial colleagues at the DWP to draw attention to the comprehensive support package the Government provided to support households and businesses through the pandemic, totalling over £400 billion.
The Government has injected over £7 billion extra into the welfare system, increased local housing allowance rental support by nearly £1 billion while invested over £400 million in targeted grants for local government to directly help the most vulnerable families in local communities across the country. It is also important to note that Opposition Day motions are purely symbolic and do not change the law.
I know that my ministerial colleagues have been committed to supporting the British people through the pandemic, so that no one was left behind as we faced one of the greatest economic challenges in our history. This has required a comprehensive £400 billion package of support, including a £7.4 billion injection into our welfare system to help lower income families.
As we move to the next phase of our national economic recovery, I know that the Government's priority is supporting people back into work and helping those already employed to progress and earn more, through the Plan for Jobs. The Plan for Jobs is an ambitious and comprehensive strategy designed to support people into work as we recover from COVID-19, it includes:
• Supporting long-term unemployed people into work through our £2.9 billion Restart scheme.
• Helping young people into work through the £2 billion Kickstart scheme, with 69,000 young people having already taken up Kickstart jobs.
• Doubling the number of Work Coaches to 27,000, giving jobseekers the personalised and intensive support they need to move back into work.
• Investing over £200 million in the Job Entry Targeted Support scheme, helping jobs seekers into work.
• Launching a Lifetime Skills Guarantee, currently being legislated for through the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, to ensure that people can get the skills they need at every stage of their life.
I believe it is important to consider that extending the £20 increase by another 12 months – or making it permanent – would cost over £6 billion per year. That is equivalent to adding 1p on the basic rate of income tax together with a further 5p on fuel duty.
As I am sure you are aware, the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) was temporarily relaxed in April 2020 to support self-employed people at the height of the pandemic. As restrictions have been removed, the MIF is being gradually reintroduced since August, at which time Work Coaches will be given discretion to further suspend the MIF to ensure that those claimants who continue to be severely affected by COVID-19 restrictions can be supported on a case-by-case basis.
I am also aware that people use food banks for many and varied reasons. The Government continues to provide a strong safety net through the welfare system for those who need extra support, whilst simultaneously working to support economic recovery and get people back into work as quickly as possible. While there are currently no official statistics on the number of foodbanks, which are independent charitable organisations, I understand that the Government added questions on food security to the Family Resources Survey, to support a better understanding of the lived experiences of families.
Please be assured that I am keen that we deliver a recovery for the whole of the country by supporting the most vulnerable in society and returning as many people as possible to work.