Letter: Official cost of single parents

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The Independent Online
From Mr David Smith

Sir: The article by Hamish McRae explaining the financial implications of divorce for the country (1 March) missed one further consequence.

One of the most important indicators that the Department of the Environment uses in Standard Spending Assessments is the number of lone parents. This indicator redistributes hundreds of millions of pounds between local authorities. The more lone parents an authority has, the more it receives from the Government to pay for services, and this applies to education, social services and all other services.

There may have been a time when lone parenthood affected small numbers of people; clearly this is no longer the case. It is also apparent that the circumstances of lone parents can be very diverse. It raises a question about the suitability of using a rather simplistic indicator in today's circumstances. Not only do the figures determine grant received by local authorities, they help to determine the Government's maximum permitted expenditure levels in nearly every education and social services authority, regardless of local opinion.

Yours sincerely,

David Smith

Principal Research Officer

Central Policy Unit

Sheffield City Council