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Poverty: Children

Graeme Morrice: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how he plans to ensure that a focus on the eradication of child poverty is maintained in implementing his proposal to replace the Child Poverty Commission with a Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. [55855]

Maria Miller: The Government remain committed to eradicating child poverty. The Child Poverty Strategy, published on 5 April, sets out the broad range of policies which are being implemented to ensure that disadvantaged families have the help they need to lift themselves out of poverty and that children from poorer backgrounds have the same opportunities as other children to achieve their full potential as they grow up. The strategy also announces our intention to create a stronger Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission with a broader remit.

Broadening the remit of the commission will not reduce the focus on child poverty. Rather, it will ensure that poverty is considered in the context of improving life chances and reducing the intergenerational transfer of poverty. Improving life chances and increasing social mobility are absolutely necessary if we are to have a sustainable impact on child poverty and it is right that there should be an explicit requirement for the commission to consider these issues.

The changes to the commission are also intended to improve the ability of the commission to hold the Government to account. We are giving the commission a duty to publish independent annual reports assessing progress towards meeting the child poverty targets and implementing the Child Poverty Strategy. We believe that this regular independent assessment will drive progress towards our goals. It also represents a clear commitment from Government to ensure that the issue of child poverty remains high on the agenda.

Social Security Benefits

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the number of households who would be subject to the overall benefit cap if (a) child benefit, (b) child tax credit and (c) housing benefit were not included in the calculation of this cap. [57078]

Chris Grayling: We estimate that 50,000 households will be affected by the benefit cap if it is introduced as announced in the spending review. We are looking at ways of easing the transition for families and providing assistance in hard cases.

Analysis of the benefit cap is based on a very small sample using survey data, therefore any assessment of options to exempt certain categories of income or groups from the benefit cap is subject to significant uncertainty. Estimates suggest that excluding child benefit from the calculation of the benefit cap may reduce the number of households affected by around 40% to 50% and excluding child tax credit or housing benefit may reduce the number of households affected by around 80% to 90%.

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Trade Unions

Mr Raab: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many staff of (a) his Department, (b) Jobcentre Plus and (c) the Pension, Disability and Carers Service are entitled to work (i) full-time as trade union representatives and (ii) part-time on trade union activities; how many such staff are paid more than £25,900 annually; and what the cost to the public purse of employing such staff on such duties was in the latest period for which figures are available. [56452]

Chris Grayling: The Department's policy on time off for trade union representatives complies with the law and reflects the code of practice issued by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Under this, the Department currently allows 16 staff to work full-time as trade union representatives, which equates to around 0.01% of our workforce. Of these, eight are employed by Jobcentre Plus and two by the Pension, Disability and Carers Service.

The Department is unable to provide data on the number of part-time representatives operating across the country as this changes on a frequent basis. However, the amount of time available, including full-time posts, is capped at 0.2% of total staffing.

Of the 16 staff currently working full-time on trade union activities, only four earn more than £25,900 annually.

The cost to the public purse of the 16 staff currently engaged full-time on trade union activities is £416,000 per year on salaries, which is around 0.02% of the Department's total pay bill.

Travel to Interview

Mrs Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment was made of the effects on (a) the rate of unemployment and (b) the Exchequer of the termination of the Jobcentre Plus Travel to

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Interview scheme; and if he will make a statement. [56501]

Chris Grayling: Help with the cost of travel to job interviews remains available from Jobcentre Plus. The Travel to Interview scheme along with a number of other discretionary funds has been rolled into a single Flexible Support Fund. This allows Jobcentre Plus managers and advisers more flexibility to tailor support they provide to jobseekers and to ensure value for money for the taxpayer. Jobcentre Plus advisers will continue to use their discretion to decide when to pay travel to interview costs.

Welfare Reform Bill

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with the Social Development Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive on (a) the Welfare Reform Bill and (b) proposals to introduce charging for child maintenance services. [47807]

Chris Grayling: The Department of Work and Pensions keeps in close contact with the Department of Social Development on the subject of welfare reform at both ministerial and official levels.

The Minister with responsibility for Welfare Reform, my noble Friend Lord Freud, visited Belfast on 4 March and met with both the Minister for Employment and Learning and the Minister for Social Development.

The Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), who has responsibility for disabled people, has also had recent discussions on 20 April with the Minister for Social Development on a range of matters, including child maintenance and disability living allowance reforms.

Furthermore Lord Freud is arranging to speak to the newly appointed Ministers to resume discussions on the welfare reform programme.