Letter: Single parents: ministers applauded and condemned

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The Independent Online
Sir: Save the Children welcomes Peter Lilley's response to John Redwood's remarks about single mothers (report and leading article, 5 July). It is to be hoped that other cabinet ministers will join him in distancing themselves from Mr Redwood's ill-considered speech. Denying single mothers benefits seems a strange way to address their own and their children's poverty.

The priority must surely be to ensure the welfare of all children in poverty, and this national responsibility must not be clouded by subjective judgements about parents' lifestyles.

A positive national strategy is required to deal with child poverty. This must include the safety net of adequate benefits for all parents who are bringing up children.

The strategy must also address ways of enabling families to be as independent as possible, for example through making available good- quality childcare which enables parents to go out to work. Also needed are family support services which recognise the stresses on parents, and aim to prevent problems before they develop. Save the Children has developed a model to build these through local partnerships.

Lone mothers and their children do indeed form a large proportion of those living in poverty in Britain today. Benefits for lone parents are already very low, and the five major children's charities expressed concern in April this year that the Child Support Act would not put a single penny into the pockets of the vast majority of lone parents on the lowest incomes. The benefit which works best to support children's needs is Child Benefit, and its value should be protected and built on.

Let's move the debate away from victim-blaming, and call on the Government to listen to the voices of the children and families who themselves face poverty and discrimination, and to take action on this positive agenda.

Yours sincerely,

MICHAEL TAYLOR

UK Director

Save the Children

London, SE5

5 July

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