HC Deb 10 December 1996 vol 287 c113
10. Mr. Alan W. Williams

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the percentage of single mothers who are dependent on state benefits. [6854]

Mr. Andrew Mitchell

In 1995, 65 per cent. of lone mothers were receiving income support and 17 per cent. family credit.

Mr. Williams

What help can the Minister announce for single parents who want to find work but cannot, because of the benefits trap, the lack of affordable child care and the lack of employment and training advice? Why do the Government continually use single parents as a scapegoat? Why do the Government not lend a hand to help them out of benefits dependency?

Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman asks what help the Government can announce. Every week, the Government announce measures designed to help lone parents to return to work. In October, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced the parent plus scheme, to be piloted over the next three years. That scheme will be the best of its type practised anywhere in the world.

Mr. Nicholls

Is not the real benefits trap in circumstances of this kind the fact that, if a woman had three illegitimate children, she would receive far more benefit than the possible earnings of any probable husband? Instead of reinforcing family life, the benefits system now positively undervalues it by making it clear that the family must view the state as the father of first rather than last resort.

Mr. Mitchell

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not a month goes by without an improvement in the performance of the Child Support Agency in getting maintenance through, principally to mothers. My hon. Friend is right in other respects as well. Through the into-work and in-work benefits, and through the after-school places endorsed by the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman), the Government have made a real difference in helping the 90 per cent. of lone parents who want to work to achieve their aim.