State 'too focused on single parents'

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Indy Politics

The traditional two-parent family is set to receive more state support after a study suggested the Government had put too much focus on helping single parents.

A review for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) found that Labour was in danger of missing its ambitious targets to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020. It could lead to a shake-up of benefits and tax credits.

The author of the report, Lisa Harker, an expert on anti-poverty measures, said: "A further 1.1 million children need to be lifted out of poverty between 2004-05 and 2010-11 in order to meet the 2010 target. However, projections suggest that if no further action is taken the child poverty rate is unlikely to fall significantly."

Although lifting 700,000 children out of poverty since 1997 was a "remarkable achievement ," Ms Harker said sustaining that progress would be challenging.

After putting the emphasis on lone parents, she concluded that the Government should make its welfare-to-work programmes more in tune with the needs of the whole family - including help with child care and flexible working.

Ms Harker found that in Britain 20 per cent of children were living in relative poverty. Among the 25 EU countries, only Italy, Portugal and the Slovak Republic have higher levels.

Jim Murphy, the Employment minister, said: "Half of poor children live with a single parent. We've done a great deal to help single parents into work, with more than 1 million now in employment, lifting thousands of children out of poverty."

"However, 40 per cent of poor children live in two-parent households in which at least one adult works. It is clear we must now look at how we can develop our services to better cater for all kinds of families - helping both the mother and father to work, boosting their joint household income and bringing yet more children out of poverty."