LORNA ALLAN has done exactly what the Government wants. A single parent determined not to sponge off the state, she went back to work when her baby was 12 weeks old "even though it broke my heart". She now finds herself in an intolerable situation.
To work full time, as she does at the North Middlesex Hospital, she pays a third of her net income to the childminder. With such a large chunk gone she has abandoned all thoughts of luxuries such as holidays and struggles to pay her rent for the small studio flat she and the baby live in.
"At the back of my mind there's always the fear of debt. I dread the electricity bill because I know I just don't have the money. And children at this age just grow so quickly, they're out of clothes in a moment." she said.
"Single mothers have this stigma attached to them. There's all this thing about getting back into work but they do nothing to help parents really, single or otherwise. I'm saving the Government money because I'm paying someone else to look after my child. In effect I'm employing someone so they get off the statistics as well.
"The last childminder I had, she had four or five children. I had paid my tax and national insurance, gave her cash that she then had to pay tax and NI on. The Government is laughing all the way to the bank.
"I have to take holiday entitlement to nurse my baby when she's sick. So if I'm likely to say to the minder, `I'm thinking of taking some holiday', what I really mean is I need a rest from work and my holiday will be in Costa del Edmonton. I can't have any luxuries."
She added: "If they just gave us a little bit of help it would be nice. If you have a company you can put in tax returns and say this is an expense. I have to find more than pounds 4,000 a year after I've paid my tax.
"I voted Tony Blair in because I thought he was interested in this. You have to laugh now. They're talking about parents going back to work and having to get off benefit. I'm not entitled to anything. Yet how are they going to achieve this without childcare?
"I don't want to be on benefits. I don't want charity. But I think one day in the future I'm going to have to pack it all in, go back to Scotland. I don't want to be a burden on my parents and the state but I just can't afford this life."