26 Yasmin Qureshi debates involving the Department for Work and Pensions

Oral Answers to Questions

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Monday 5th February 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. The two-child cap is there for good reason: so that families in those circumstances are taking the same kind of decisions that others—the taxpayers funding benefits—have to take.

Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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5. What steps he is taking to help reduce child poverty.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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13. What recent estimate he has made of the number of children in poverty.

Jo Churchill Portrait The Minister for Employment (Jo Churchill)
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In the latest statistics, there were 400,000 fewer children in absolute poverty after housing costs than there were in 2009-10. In this financial year, we will spend about £124 billion on welfare supporting working-age families. We are also providing £104 billion between 2022 and 2025 to help families with cost of living pressures. However, the Government’s focus is firmly on reducing the risk of child poverty by supporting parents into work in every way we can.

Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi
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The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently found that 42% of children in Bolton live below the poverty line. After 14 years of Tory cuts and general incompetence, Britain now has the worst rise in child poverty among the major countries. What would the Minister say to a young family in Bolton who told me, “One day we eat and one day we don’t”?

Jo Churchill Portrait Jo Churchill
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Nobody on either side of the House wants to see families struggling. However, I repeat that children living in workless households are about five times more likely to be in absolute poverty after housing costs than those in households where all adults work. The Government are supporting the whole family through our childcare support, which we have increased by almost 50% to £951 a month for one child or £1,630 for two; the increase in the national living wage to £11.44 from April; our cost of living offers; and so on.

Household Support Fund

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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It’s okay. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Sir Stephen Timms) for securing this important debate.

The household support fund is worth £5.5 million for people in Bolton. Following reassurance in the autumn statement, it was understood that it would continue, but of course we have heard nothing from the Government. Bolton Council has had to hold back a further half a million pounds to bolster its local welfare provision service and mitigate the impact of possibly losing that £5.5 million. Today, another blow has been dealt to Bolton Council with the announcement that its service grant is going to be cut by a staggering £2.4 million.

Withdrawing the household support fund is taking away £5.5 million from desperate households in Bolton, which we need to support vulnerable people and pay for their clothes, food and other essentials. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that Bolton is now in the top five for child poverty in the north-west. The household support fund is a lifeline for my constituents. I urge the Minister: please do not cut the fund. It is a great safety net for the families and individuals facing the greatest hardships.

Stewart Hosie Portrait Stewart Hosie (in the Chair)
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I call Sarah Maskell. Sorry: Rachael Maskell. Forgive me—it’s been a very long day.

Carer’s Allowance

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Wednesday 30th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Bardell. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) for securing this important debate. I begin by declaring an interest. I will be speaking from a place of personal experience, as someone who is a carer. Indeed, there are 13.6 million unpaid carers in the United Kingdom supporting family members and friends. Many of their stories go untold, as do their struggles. I know that some hon. Members have spoken about the struggles of the people they have come across, and how they have tried to cope with this.

I will talk a little bit about my situation. Effectively, over the past 10 years I have been a carer. First I was a carer to my mother, who passed away in 2017—during the course of the general election—and more recently I have been a carer to my brother, who has a number of chronic conditions. Trying to balance life—to balance working, family and caring—is very difficult. However, I am lucky enough to have a decent income. I am lucky because my work is flexible and I can rearrange appointments. If I had a nine-to-five job, I would not be able to look after my family members, and I would have to leave my job, as did the teacher, a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), and that is not fair. We are the fourth or fifth richest country in the world. We should not have to be in this position and people should not have to do that.

Even though I am financially stable and have flexibility, even I get tired, as do others. For example, about eight weeks ago my brother telephoned me in the middle of the night, at 3 o’clock in the morning, to say that he had a massive pain in his arm. I called an ambulance and he was taken straight to Salford hospital. He had an MRI, was found to have a clot in his arm, and was operated on immediately. That same night I was with him, but the next morning was a Monday and I had to come down to Parliament. When we stay with family members for nights on end, in the morning we can hardly keep our eyes open and we take loads of paracetamol to try to get rid of the headache that we get from not having slept at night.

I know that social services provide some carers and people do get carers coming in, but that is not enough. Their hours are limited. They are there for half an hour or 45 minutes to give someone tea or lunch, but what about the four or five-hour gap before the next carer visit? More importantly, the night-time visits have now effectively been stopped by local authorities. I remember caring for my elderly mother. Because of her physical, emotional and psychological situation, I could be up three times a night with her. As I have said, I was able to cope, but others cannot.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) has said, everyone knows about social care and the lack of financial provision for carers. We have discussed it in Parliament hundreds of times. It has been debated again and again, but no Government have grasped the issue and done anything with it. We need drastic changes in the whole care system. There are 13.6 million carers, some of whom, as other Members have said, have had to leave their jobs or stop their education, because that is the grim reality of caring for a sick member of the family.

For me it is a privilege and an honour to be able to look after my family. I feel pleased that I can be with them, but I feel sorry for all those whose families are not around them—people who are left on their own, often languishing for hours and hours without anyone to look after them. It is those people that we need to be concerned about, as well as the carers who end up looking after them.

This has already been mentioned, but the carer’s allowance is going up by only 3.5%, and inflation is already more than 7%. We know that heating bills are going up. A lot of elderly and ill people often need extra heating, and if they are with their families, that often means the bill will be paid by their families.

Transport costs can be much higher because someone might need to be accompanied or they might need taxis to go to medical appointments. According to Carers UK, 24% of carers in receipt of carer’s allowance are using food banks to make ends meet. It also states that:

“The additional costs of caring can be compounded by carers having to reduce their working hours”,

as I said, or “leave employment” altogether.

What is the Minister and her Government doing to give support to carers at this very difficult time? What are they going to do in real terms to increase the benefits and allowances that carers get? Will they consider extending the warm home discount scheme to unpaid carers, to recognise the particularly high energy costs that carers often face to keep the person they are looking after safe and warm? Believe me, most ill people need extra heating.

We need a comprehensive plan for social care to support our ageing population and to relieve the pressures on the NHS. Many unwell people spend extra time in hospital because there is no social care support package available for them, delaying them there. The average person has a 50:50 chance of caring by the age of 50 —long before they reach retirement age. Most will not be able to do that, and they cannot use private carers. The Government know that, the medical profession know it, social services know it, local authorities know it, and we all know it. There is a big problem and a sad situation. Something needs to be done now.

In-work Poverty

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Wednesday 16th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Rees. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) for securing this debate, which is absolutely vital but should not be necessary in 21st-century Britain.

My constituency of Bolton South East is the 38th most deprived constituency in the United Kingdom. We have a jobs crisis, a wage crisis and a poverty crisis. Every single day, constituents write to me, outlining the most tragic circumstances. The stories include the inability to get a job, an unexpected benefits freeze and, more recently, a collective panic about how to pay for food, heating and bills. These are not the make-believe people that Cameron and Osborne dreamed up in 2010—the “shirkers” or “scroungers”—but the strivers that the coalition supposedly championed. They work long hours in tough jobs to provide for their families, put food on the table and give their children the best chance in life.

The 800 taxi drivers in the borough of Bolton are an example. Many of them live in my patch, and work long, hard hours, but because of rulings about the gig economy and their self-employed status, they often fail to make even the minimum wage on some shifts. We need to factor in the continuing restraints on licensing by local authorities, insurance costs, and other rules set by local authorities that make life even harder for them.

So many hard-working people are living in poverty. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that 56% of people in poverty are working; that represents a rise of 17% from 1998. Additionally, almost 40% of people on universal credit are working. That tells us that our economic model and wage system are fundamentally broken. We are told frequently by the Government that work is the best route out of poverty, as if that is an irrefutable fact, but clearly it is not the case.

Real wages were revised down again on Tuesday and are collectively lower than at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, yet the pay of chief executives of big companies has ballooned. The rich have actually got richer over the years. House prices are up by 150% in some areas of Bolton. Of course, there is also the rise in national insurance for the lowest paid, just to make things even worse for them. We need the Chancellor of the Exchequer to top up universal credit and take it back to the rate that it was at during the pandemic. The removal of the £20 uplift is not only morally bankrupt, but economically illiterate. It affected 14,000 of my constituents, and £20 per week is a lot of money for them.

Another reform that the Government could support is in relation to public transport. Only 30% of households in my constituency have a car and therefore rely on public transport, at significant cost. Thankfully, the Mayor of Greater Manchester has brought the buses into the public sector. As a result, no one will have to pay more than £2 per journey, which will make life so much easier for people. The Government could also quite easily implement a windfall tax on the £31 billion-worth of profits from oil and gas companies—above the ordinary profit that these companies make. That could be used to help to alleviate people’s problems, yet what does the Treasury say? “We’ll give you a £200 loan that you must pay back to us.” That is an insult to our constituents.

Many of my colleagues have today suggested practical steps that the Government could take. Bearing in mind that we are the fourth richest country in the world, we should not have constituents in poverty. I hope that the Minister listens to the suggestions put forward today and acts on them.

Regional Inequalities: Child Poverty

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr Huq. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) for securing today’s important debate. There are 4.3 million children living in poverty in the UK, with more than half a million in the north-west alone. In my constituency of Bolton South East, two of the postcodes have 50% child poverty, and one in three children in our country are raised in poverty; yet we are the fifth-richest country in the world.

The previous Labour Government took 1.1 million children out of poverty. We now have a situation where a generation of children have had their life chances damaged by poverty. With the rise in the cost of living, including energy costs, the situation is only going to get worse and bleaker for them. There are a number of things that the Government can do, even now, that could make life easier for those children and their families, to take them out of poverty. I received an email from a constituent who said that children do not have to go hungry when they go to school or wear the same uniform for three years in a row.

First, the Government could return universal credit to the level it was under covid. That change has impacted 14,000 of my constituents. They could reintroduce the education maintenance allowance, which the Labour Government introduced for 16 to 18-year-olds. That allowed them to continue in education because that money paid towards bus fares, food and books. We also need more proper social housing. Children and families in poverty often live in squalid and overcrowded accommodation with no heating, where children have to share a room with three or four people.

Instead, the Government have come up with a crazy plan to give households a £200 rebate that has to be returned, to help with energy prices. The scheme will probably cost more than the money given out, which is plain ridiculous. There is a very good option available: tax the energy companies on their unexpected windfall profits, which would raise about £32 billion to help people in real ways. Yet the Government refuse to do that.

I was dismayed to read last week of the Government plan not to give loans to people who do not have GCSEs in maths and English. How does having a maths GCSE help in a degree such as sociology, history, social sciences or management? The vice-chancellor of the University of Bolton told me last week that that will stop children getting into universities. It will also reduce the numbers in universities such as Bolton, which serve particularly vulnerable and marginalised communities.

When the Government talk about levelling up, I am not sure what levelling up they are doing. I am hoping that the Minister has listened to me and colleagues about the actions that could be taken immediately to assist those families.

Disability Benefits Assessments

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Tuesday 1st February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova) for securing this really important debate. It was in 1987, while I was a Bar student, that I first came across these types of cases. In those days, very few cases ended up in the social security tribunal. Most people were able to get their benefits after an administrative paper review. However, a number of years ago, when the Conservative Government came in, they abolished the practice of doctors assessing whether people were eligible for benefits. That was replaced by private contractors using staff who were not medically qualified. As a result, many people ended up having to go to appeal to get their benefits. The Government should think about that, and look at it in their Green Paper.

Some years ago, the Government changed the rules regarding the disability living allowance, and converted it to PIP. Many people who used to receive DLA then had to be reconsidered for PIP. The criteria for PIP were much harsher and more stringent. As a result, many disabled people lost out. I want to concentrate on those people who have been very unwell for many years. Every few years they have to go through the reassessment process, which is an incredibly debilitating, stressful and anxious time for them. I was recently contacted by constituents who suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory disease that over time can cause some of the bones in the spine to fuse. They have been called back time and again to be reassessed, when everybody knows their condition is only going to get worse.

Another couple contacted me. The husband received a lifetime disability living allowance award 18 years ago. He is unable to walk and is completely dependent on others for his needs, yet he has to go through a stressful and difficult reassessment process for PIP. I would like the Minister to enlighten us. When a person is so incapacitated that a lifetime award is appropriate and it is recognised that they will not get better, why do the Government think it reasonable for that person repeatedly to endure reassessment?

Another constituent with cerebral palsy had, before PIP was introduced, received DLA since she was 16. Her illness is only going to get worse; the brain damage is irreversible and is not going to change, yet she has to get reassessed again and again. Why do the Government insist on reassessment for lifelong conditions, when they know that that is a waste of money and energy, and is very cruel? The reviews mean that people are subjected to repeated interviews with people who are not medical experts.

We have a system where people who are blind, paraplegic or have Down’s syndrome are put through reassessment, and forced to provide information about their disability; information that the Government already have and cannot possibly change. We have seen that the system that assesses them has proved to be a disaster; with lost applications and delay, it is not fit for purpose. None of that is mentioned in the Green Paper.

I urge the Minister to consider the following point. Lifetime awards, such as those we had with DLA, are a genuinely useful part of our welfare system. They are sensible responses to the reality that some people with disabilities will never get better. They ensure that they have to go to an assessment only once. I urge the Minister to consider the policies that have caused an enormous amount of suffering to our disabled citizens.

Universal Credit Roll-out

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Wednesday 18th October 2017

(6 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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I am surprised by the intensity of the controversy that has crept into this debate. The Labour party and the Scottish nationalists say they support the principles behind universal credit—that will have implications for how it operates—and the Liberal Democrats actually helped to introduce it, yet we have this degree of controversy. Of course, we have heard hard stories today, but let us be clear: the existing system produces hard stories. In my constituency, every time there is a “take up of benefit” campaign, we find that people are losing out on millions of pounds of benefits because the system is so complicated. A new system that helps to reduce that complexity is bound to help people in hardship.

Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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I have been a constituency MP for the last seven years, and since the roll-out of universal credit, I have seen more people come to my advice surgeries with problems about getting their universal credit, and that includes people who are working.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson
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If we added up the number of people who come with tax credit and benefit problems and so on, I guarantee we would find the same level of dissatisfaction with the existing system.

I accept that there are problems with the new system, but we have to give some credit to the Government for listening. We have raised several issues in our discussions. There were the online difficulties, and we now have free telephone calls. There were difficulties with people not having money, and we now have greater access to early payments. There were difficulties with the learning processes, and the Secretary of State said twice today that he did not intend to rush the system so that he could test, learn and rectify.

Personal Independence Payments

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Tuesday 28th February 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

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Damian Green Portrait Damian Green
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Yes, my hon. Friend makes a correct point, and one that I have made several times in the past few minutes. PIP is a better benefit than DLA for several reasons, perhaps the most important being that it is more available to those with mental health conditions. It always has been. The rules we are putting in place will make sure that it continues to be.

Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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Why are the Government contradicting their argument in the 2015 upper tribunal case of HL v. SSWP, where they argued that psychological distress should be included in PIP assessments?

Damian Green Portrait Damian Green
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I am happy to assure the hon. Lady that psychological distress is included in PIP assessments. It always has been. Nothing changes as a result of these regulations.

Welfare

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Monday 21st March 2016

(8 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb
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Some of the most impressive people I meet, week in and week out, in my constituency and elsewhere are single mums. As a Government, we are doing far more than ever before to support people in those circumstances to realise their ambitions, to move into work and to achieve some quite exciting things in their careers.

Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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Some 640,000 disabled people will be relieved to hear the announcement this afternoon. Will the Secretary of State reassure me that those cuts will never be reintroduced by this Government again?

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb
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The hon. Lady and other Opposition Members are trying to tease out a commitment from the Government that there will never, ever, ever be any other changes to welfare spending. Such a commitment would be absurd. We know that we need to carry on with reform. The commitment that I am making today, based on some very long conversations with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister over the weekend, is that we will not go ahead with the proposed PIP cuts, that we will not be seeking alternative offsetting savings, and that as a Government we are not seeking further savings from the welfare budget.

State Pension Age

Yasmin Qureshi Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd March 2016

(8 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

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Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith
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I genuinely regret that the consensus that was achieved for the 2014 legislation has been tossed aside in a matter of hours by the Opposition, apparently over breakfast this morning. [Interruption.] I urge them, instead of chuntering away on the Front Bench, to remember what their spokesman said in 2014. He said categorically:

“we do not oppose the Bill”.—[Official Report, 29 October 2013; Vol. 569, c. 870.]

They agreed with the regular review. I urge the Opposition to get back to the sensible position of wanting to co-operate over changes to the pension age.

Yasmin Qureshi Portrait Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
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May I ask the Secretary of State about different occupations? Certain professions, such as those who serve in the armed services, the fire brigade and the police, require a lot of physical strength. We should even think about surgeons, who will have to operate on people later on in life. Has Sir John Cridland been asked to look at those people’s retirement ages?

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith
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That is another legitimate question. It is within scope for the hon. Lady to raise it with John Cridland and I urge her to do so. A number of similar points have been made. Of course, he will have to make the final decision about the balance of his review within the terms of reference, but this matter is certainly within the terms of reference. I wish those on the Front Bench of the hon. Lady’s party had taken such a positive view.