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Letter: Tory betrayal of poor families

Sir: As a volunteer for Home-Start UK, I applaud Polly Toynbee's concern for families under stress ("Tory talk of family values covers another betrayal", 6 January).

During the past year, with two paid part-timers and about 30 volunteers, we have supported 85 families which included 206 children, only to be faced yet again by cuts in our meagre core funding by the local council, which has little choice due to rate-capping.

Here is the human face of just one of these statistics:

Imagine that you are a 26-year-old mother of three children under six years of age. Your husband is currently unemployed and frequently drowns his sorrows in drink. You were brought up in a residential home, are semi- literate, and though you want the best for your children, you have had so little real mothering that you are ignorant of what this entails.

Your mother lives not 30 miles away but has yet to see your youngest child, since travelling by bus would be too expensive and difficult. You live on a council estate plagued by vandalism and petty crime. You have sold the kitchen table and chairs for other essentials. Non-payment of the TV licence led to a fine, which you have attempted to pay off for the first six months, but having fallen behind, you are being threatened by court proceedings.

However, you are more concerned with the fact that your children are often ill, that there is not sufficient food in the house, no money till the end of the week and your six-year-old is constantly bed-wetting.

For almost two years I visited this woman and her children weekly, along with another similar family, and I wonder if I played a part in her marriage surviving despite all the talk of divorce; whether she really would have been sent to prison had I not pleaded her case; did she and the children gain any real benefit from the outings, etc. It is impossible to quantify the support our unpaid volunteers give, but we rest easy at night. Do all our politicians?


Merton, Oxfordshire