HL Deb 25 March 1998 vol 587 cc1217-8

Lord Northbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a personal adviser and the other advantages to be offered to help lone mothers off benefit and into work (as announced by the Secretary of State for Social Security and Minister for Women on 4th July 1997 (H.C. Deb. col. 519)) will also be available to fathers who have made the commitment to support their children.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham)

My Lords, lone fathers, who comprise some 7 per cent. of all lone parents, will have the same support and services as lone mothers in moving from benefit into work.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. Will she confirm that that applies to the fathers of children who also have a lone mother? Does the Minister agree that a father and mother both in work and both committed, through the Child Support Agency or otherwise, to support their children are much less likely to need support from the taxpayer? Does she agree further that a father who is in regular employment is a much more attractive proposition as a husband or partner? Therefore, to get the fathers back into work may well reduce the total number of single parents. Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I agree entirely with both points made by the noble Lord. The non-resident father—that is the father of children living with the lone parent—is entitled to the new deals for the young unemployed under-25s, the long-term unemployed and if they are disabled. I am sure that the noble Lord is entirely right. It is certainly the case that those areas where there are the highest numbers of lone parents are also the areas with the highest male unemployment, particularly in inner cities; for example, Manchester, Glasgow or Liverpool. I am sure the noble Lord is right to say that if we can encourage young men into work and at the same time strengthen their relationships with their children, that will be in the interests of everyone.

Baroness Young

My Lords, does the noble Baroness not agree, following upon the very important Question of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that there is a much greater benefit in encouraging young people to marry to look after their children rather than do so as cohabiting couples?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, what matters for all children is that they are brought up in strong, stable family relationships. I believe personally that that is best ensured within marriage. But it is also the case and can be equally true of strong relationships within cohabiting families. What matters is that children are brought up with the love and support of two caring parents. It surely does not matter whether the children are in married or cohabiting families as long as they thrive. However, the problems arise for children being brought up in fractured families where the parents are lone; where the children are in poverty; and where the father is absent. That is why, in terms of our policies, we are developing new deals and seeking to reform the Child Support Agency.

Back to