Letter: Families lack political backing

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The Independent Online
Sir: Polly Toynbee's assertion (6 January) that the only useful thing a government can do for families is to wait until they are in danger of collapse and then provide social workers to sort them out is profoundly depressing. There are several more useful things it can do.

It can refrain from promoting the social and economic conditions which breed "disaster families". It can ensure that poor families do not pay proportionately more of their income in taxes than rich ones; it can ensure that if a couple on benefits live together, their joint income is not lower than if they live apart; it can use the tax and benefit systems to alleviate the loss of income and extra costs which child-rearing entails; it can use the maintenance system to ensure that fathers are not financially better off as a result of dumping their wives and children.

In short, a government can recognise that its role in family life need not be solely an authoritarian, punitive one, which comes into effect only when the family has become a "disaster". That route is precisely the one the present government has been following: the results can hardly be described as useful.

JEAN MOLLOY

London SE13

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