Letter: The benefit families need

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The Independent Online
Sir: Frances Savin (letter, 6 June) is right in suggesting that the minimum wage cannot be expected to cover the cost of a family. In the 1972-73 select committee on tax-credit the argument for a system of comprehensive support for children which I put forward (together with Professor Kaldor and Professor Abel-Smith) was dismissed on the grounds that it had wide implications for the wage-structure of the country. In our two-income family society this argument must be taken seriously if equal pay is to be a reality.

We should not however try to go back to a breadwinner/full-time mother society. We need to have a special Family Responsibility Benefit for families with a child under school age. Young children require considerable attention which makes it impossible for both parents to make a normal contribution to family income. Either one parent (usually the mother) is restricted in her ability to earn if she provides this, personally, or the couple have considerable expense in providing substitute care.

It is essential that the family should be free to choose how this care is provided. The present system of support produces a poverty trap and is administratively expensive. Only a special benefit can provide the necessary flexibility. The form of care will vary according to the age and needs of the child and the earning opportunities available to both parents.

MARY TYLER

London NW11

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