More help forecast for lone parents: Number receiving aid from former partners will double under Child Support Agency, Lilley declares

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The Independent Online
The number of single parents receiving help from former partners with the cost of bringing up their children will double under the Child Support Agency, Peter Lilley, the Secretary of State for Social Security, told a press conference yesterday, writes Adam Sage.

His comments came as the agency, responsible for assessing and collecting child maintenance, took on its first cases. Until now, payments have been set by the courts under a system criticised as unfair. Less than 30 per cent of single mothers receive any maintenance from ex-partners.

Under the agency, 800,000 lone parents would receive financial support, twice as many as at present, Mr Lilley said. The Government hopes that this will save pounds 600m a year.

Ministers argue that regular maintenance will encourage unemployed single mothers who want to return to work. Unlike income support, which is lost when women obtain employment, maintenance payments can be retained.

However, neither Mr Lilley nor Ros Hepplewhite, the agency's chief executive, were able to say how many women would be better off.