Parents' group urges targeting of benefits

A CAMPAIGN group for single parents has called for child benefits to be 'targeted' towards paying for child care, to lift people out of the poverty and unemployment traps, writes Rosie Waterhouse.

In a controversial approach reminiscent of more right-wing policies, Marion Kozak, co-ordinator of the Daycare Trust, advocated targeting as a way of changing the social security system to encourage single parents to take on paid work rather than rely solely on state benefits.

After research, the Daycare Trust - which yesterday launched its report, Becoming a Breadwinner - claims that 200,000 lone parents and 300,000 children would benefit if measures were introduced to remove the 'disincentive' for single parents to take jobs. Parents lose benefit if they earn more than about pounds 30 a week.

The Daycare Trust and other groups, such as Gingerbread, want the Government to increase the amount of earnings which are allowed before benefits are cut.

Referring to the current debate about whether to cut benefits or increase taxes, Ms Kozac said: 'If ever the word targeting belongs, it is to the 1.3 million lone parents in this country. If we are going to target benefits in any meaningful way, we would make money go to the people who could make tremendous use of it and help them get back to work. We are suggesting pounds 210m be spent every year in targeting this group of parents to give them a foothold in the labour market.'

The trust's argument in favour of targeting is very similar to a policy being promoted by the right-wing think tank the Adam Smith Institute, which is currently working on a formula to end the universal payment of child benefit.

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