Letter: When only the pregnant get a flat

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The Independent Online
Sir: The child maintenance system in Australia, on which the British scheme is largely based, has achieved general acceptance. Why, then, did the British Government reject the element designed to increase co-operation with the agency and minimise hostility and resentment: that is, the 'disregard'?

The absent spouse (the father in 90 per cent of cases) knows that his child's state benefit will be reduced by only 50 cents for each dollar that he pays in maintenance. His sense of responsibility is encouraged by the knowledge that his contribution is directly enriching his child's life, and his former partner is glad to co-operate with a system that gives the family a small increase over the basic benefit rate.

The result is that more than 70 per cent of one-parent families are receiving some maintenance (before the scheme started, the figure was around 25 per cent). The bill for state benefit has been reduced by nearly Adollars 200m a year, and one-parent families are better off by a similar amount, which increases their opportunity to escape the much-vilified 'culture of dependency'.

Yours faithfully,

CATHERINE PORTEOUS

London, W11

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