HC Deb 19 April 1999 vol 329 cc566-7
24. Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Canning Town)

What plans he has to assist parents with the costs of bringing up children. [79752]

The Parliamentary Under"Secretary of State for Social Security (Angela Eagle)

From April 2000, child benefit will be worth at least £15 for older children and £10 for subsequent children. These are above-inflation increases, which will help all children and build on this year's largest ever increase in the eldest child rate, which is already benefiting nearly 6.5 million families.

Recipients of income-related benefits will also get nearly £6 per week extra for each child under age 11—an increase of almost 30 per cent., which will help nearly 1 million families.

Mr. Fitzpatrick

I am grateful to the Minister for her response. She obviously agrees that the best way to help families is to help children. I am sure that she is aware that there is wide support for the recent increases in child benefit, and child premiums for income-related benefits. Will she ensure that when the Government's proposals for the reform of the Child Support Agency emerge, they will continue the theme of offering practical help to children?

Angela Eagle

One of the most pernicious legacies from our predecessors was the very large number of children growing up in poverty—something which the increases that I have just mentioned will have a real effect on tackling. I thank my hon. Friend for his question and assure him that at the forefront of our mind in planning for changes to the organisation of the CSA is the important notion that children deserve the support of both parents, whether they live together or separately.

Mr. David Prior (North Norfolk)

Can the Minister confirm that single parents with young children who wish to return to full-time education are entitled to child care for a period of one year only, and that that effectively precludes them from taking two-year courses, such as A-levels?

Angela Eagle

That is more a matter for Education Ministers. We do what we can to co-ordinate policy across Government Departments, but it is certainly not the case that social security benefits exist to pay for education.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

The Prime Minister has undertaken to eliminate child poverty within 20 years. How many children were living in poverty when the Government took office, and how many are living in poverty today?

Angela Eagle

One in three children were living in poverty when the Government took office. We have estimated that as result of the policy changes and benefit increases to which I have referred, 700,000 children will be lifted out of poverty by the end of this Parliament.

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