Letter: Motherhood can signal success against the odds

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The Independent Online
Sir: With reference to your article '(John) Redwood condemned for 'bullying' single mothers' (5 July), I would be grateful if you would allow me the opportunity to tell my story.

I am a mature undergraduate at Coventry University; in order to supplement my grant, I work in a nursing home. Prior to this, I worked for 12 years in the NHS as a registered mental nurse. I consider myself fortunate to have always been in employment since leaving school. I am also a single parent, one of those 'never been marrieds', and live in a council house.

I would ask Mr Redwood to reconsider his comments regarding lone parents. I spent a year living in a bed-sit with my eldest son. I used to get up at 5.45 am in order to take him to his child-minder and then begin a 12-hour shift in the local psychiatric hospital. The flat the local council provided for me was without any form of heating, and on the first floor. It was only when my eldest child was seven, and the local MP intervened on my behalf, that I was allocated a house.

When I applied for my grant, I was informed it would be based on income. In fact I was less than pounds 100 better off than a lone parent who applies for a grant but has never worked. (One can only claim lone-parent allowance or mature student allowance, not both.) Even though I have for many years paid tax and national insurance, I am unable to claim state benefit during vacation periods. Sometimes I wonder whether it is worth all the hassle.

The Government ought to look at incentives to enable lone parents to support their families, ie availability of good quality child care for all mothers at affordable prices; after-school play schemes; encouraging employers to introduce more flexible working hours; reassessing the need for housing of families in general, irrespective of whether or not they are headed by a lone parent.

I ask Mr Redwood to go out into the real world and talk to 'us'. He might be suprised at what he finds. I would suggest that the vast majority of 'us' are hard-working, responsible individuals (whether or not we are able to secure employment), trying to maintain our dignity against comments such as his.

Yours sincerely,

CATHERINE DAWSON

Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

5 July

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