Windfall for lone parents less than pounds 2 a week

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Lone parents will be less than pounds 2 a week better off under the new deal from the windfall fund announced by Labour in this week's Budget, says the Child Poverty Action Group.

They said that they "remained to be convinced" that Labour's plans for a national childcare strategy could work in practice with the figures that had been put out.

And the Daycare Trust, while welcoming the change in attitude to lone parents, warned that at present only one childcare place existed for every nine children under eight.

Lone parents' groups remain angry that the Government has gone ahead with Tory plans to cut lone parents' benefits - equivalent to around pounds 6 a week - along with other measures planned by the Tories for housing benefit, child allowances, the jobseeker's allowance and council and disability allowance. Such cuts will represent a saving of pounds 1bn by the end of this Parliament.

Harriet Harman, the Secretary of State for Social Security, outlined the Budget measures in the House yesterday. She said that when the youngest child of a lone parent went to school, the parent would be sent a letter inviting him or her to the jobcentre where he or she would get a personal adviser to help in the search for a job.

The programme will be launched on 21 July this year in eight areas and the national programme would be implemented by early next year. Ms Harman said the key to work for lone parents was affordable childcare and the Government would set up a network of after-school clubs funded by the National Lottery. The Government is also introducing a new maximum disregard for childcare of pounds 100 a week for families with two or more children and increase the age at which the childcare disregard was available from 11 to 12.

"Together, all of these measures mark the beginning of a radical new approach to welfare, an approach that puts work at the heart of the welfare state and extends opportunities to those that have, until now, been denied the chance to provide a better life for themselves and their families," Ms Harman said.

But the Child Poverty Action Group said that the pounds 200m set aside from the windfall tax was "pitiful". It estimated that given that it is for lifetime of this Parliament, and there are half a million lone parents targeted, each lone parent would only be pounds 1.92 better off.

Sally Witcher, director of CPAG said: "We've got various kinds of bits but no clear idea of how it will all fit together. We want to know how much the national child care strategy is going to cost and what they are going to do to meet it ... It doesn't look that convincing.

"The initiative is welcome, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the ingredients don't add up."