Letter: Reactions to Conservative conference comments

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Independent's coverage of Peter Lilley's speech on benefit fraud at the conference yesterday reported the standing ovation he received. His inaccurate and offensive comments that women got pregnant to obtain housing were not met with such approbation by single parents. Gingerbread is the leading national organisation campaigning for the rights of lone parents and their children.

The solution to the poverty experienced by lone parents is not the Child Support Agency as envisaged by Peter Lilley. Some 70 per cent of lone single mothers live on pounds 100 a week or less, with the majority dependent on welfare benefits.

If the absent parent is pursued by this new agency, the caring parent on benefit will not be better off financially and could suffer harassment from both the Child Support Agency and the former partner. Fear of the consequences of this legislation could force up to 75,000 lone parents to come off benefit, rather than name the absent parent.

Mr Lilley's announcement of the new family credit advice line is of little use to those who have to pay childcare or mortgage costs, as these are not taken into account. More than half of unemployed lone parents would return to work if they could find affordable child care.

There are 1.3 million lone parents bringing up 2.1 million children. In 1990, one in five heads of household were lone parents, not a statistic to be trivialised by a government minister in a rhyme about 'dads who won't support the kids of ladies . . . they have kissed'.

Gingerbread supports any government initiative that improves the standard of living and the quality of life for lone parents and their children; the Child Support Act and the Secretary of State for Social Security Secretary's speech yesterday do neither.

Yours sincerely,

MARY HONEYBALL

Chief Executive,

Gingerbread

London, WC2

8 October

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