Letter: Accusation tested

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The Independent Online
Sir: Yesterday in the Commons, Peter Lilley was asked how many young single mothers had been prosecuted for becoming pregnant with a view to 'jumping the housing queue'. He confirmed that the Government has no records offering any evidence of this accusation. The question followed Mr Lilley's accusations at the Tory party conference in his 'scroungers' speech. We are frustrated that some politicians - who admit they have no proof - persist in accusing young women of getting pregnant in order to obtain council housing.

We set out to test this theory by undertaking a qualitative 'snapshot' research project published as Young Single Mothers Today: A Qualitative Study of Housing and Support Needs (1989). Our research may not have been on a large scale, but it is the only research that has been done. It showed that young women are not aware of their housing or social security rights; that most did not know they were pregnant until quite late in pregnancy; and that when they discovered the pregnancy, they believed they would be continuing a stable relationship with the father of their child.

A lot of criticism is levelled at young single mothers. Our research concluded that, where young mothers get the active support of their families, they cope well. It is the very vulnerable young mother with no support who finds coping a real problem.

It is not in anyone's interest - and certainly not in the interests of the child - to withdraw the minimum support that the state provides. Rather than withdrawing such support, we ought to be looking at giving more, practical, help to young mothers so that they can achieve independence - for the sake of their children, we must help them not just to survive, but to thrive.

Yours faithfully,

SUE SLIPMAN

Director, National Council

for One Parent Families

London, NW5

28 October

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