Letter: Work and morals

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Sir: You say (leader, 9 December) that "a lump of cash, handed out by the state, does not make a poor household part of the mainstream". Perhaps it doesn't - by itself - although in a society in which "the mainstream" is made up of those with more money, it doesn't half help.

But an adequate income also makes the other steps out of exclusion that much easier. It makes the transition to paid employment less of a risk - crucial for those with children especially. Recent research shows that lone parents suffering greater financial hardship were less likely to obtain a job. All the tasks of the new Social Exclusion Unit will be made that much more difficult if the energies of the people whose problems it is meant to be addressing are exhausted by the day-to-day struggle for survival.

Let's stop perpetuating the damaging polarisation between better benefits and other anti-poverty policies. Each is necessary but not sufficient. They should all be seen as elements of a comprehensive strategy to enable people to move from the margins to the mainstream.

FRAN BENNETT

Oxford

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