Campaigners have rounded on a group of Conservative MPs who said teenage mothers should have to live with their parents or move to a hostel if they want to receive benefits.
The 40 Group, formed to fight for marginal seats, was accused by the Gingerbread charity of coming up with "punitive" policy ideas based on "stereotypes", while Green MP Caroline Lucas denounced the "cruel and reactionary proposal".
And the Single Parent Action Network said teen mums were a "vulnerable group" who had been "repeatedly targeted and stigmatised for political gain."
The contentious proposal is contained in a new 40 Group pamphlet, containing 40 policy suggestions.
One of the authors, James Morris, told the BBC the plans were "an offering to the Prime Minister from the battleground", and claimed many of the 40 proposals were "from the mouths of swing voters".
The 40 Group represents the Conservative MPs with the thinnest majorities at Westminster.
Good to see the Tories finally cracking down on teenage mothers, with their obscene salaries, tax havens and responsibility for recession.— paul bassett davies (@thewritertype) July 15, 2013
According to the ConservativeHome website, the group's "raison d'etre" is to hang onto the 40 seats, but it also looks to influence government policy.
The group had become frustrated by the "indulgent behaviour" of MPs with safe seats, and had decided to publish their own "moderate manifesto", the Financial Times said (£).
According to the MPs, some young people are encouraged to have a child because they wrongly think it will entitle them to free accommodation.
So they suggest "all benefits to teenage mothers should be made on the condition of them living with their parents or in supervised hostel accommodation".
This will work, they say, because: "Teenagers will be left in no doubt that teenage motherhood will not lead to an
automatic right to subsidised housing and other benefits, while the general public can be assured that a teenager’s
motivations for having a child are not related to housing access. "
But Sue Cohen, the Single Parent Action Network's Chief Executive, told The Huffington Post UK: “This is more political posturing, picking on a vulnerable group that has been repeatedly target and stigmatised for political gain.”
Calling for a "reality check", she said many teenage parents already lived with their families or in sheltered housing.
"They can only access social housing if they are seen to be able to live independently," she said.
"Those that do often have partners. Less than 2% of single parents are teenage parents.
"Another reality check: sheltered housing has been hit hard by austerity measures.
"Is there to be a new investment programme to support those most in need? Without this, government is consigning their children to even deeper poverty. But then child poverty is no longer on the political agenda.”
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir added: "It is hugely disappointing to see politicians yet again hit out at teenage parents with punitive policy ideas based on the same old stereotypes, which fly in the face of the facts.
“As a charity working with young single parents, we know that however untrue these stereotypes are, the stigma facing teenage parents can still be hugely damaging to the young women and men taking their first steps into parenthood."
Teenage pregnancy rates were the lowest on record, she said, and just 2% of single parents are teenagers.
Lucas said the proposal was "yet another attempt to attack and marginalise the poorest – and a further effort to introduce conditionality into a welfare system that should assess by need, not moral judgement."
Among the other proposals is a call for a new runway at Birmingham Airport, instead of the 'Boris Island' favoured by the London mayor.
In a forward to the pamphlet, David Cameron says it contains "a compilation of interesting ideas".
He added that members would "inevitably have different views" about the different policies.
Earlier this month, another group of Tory MPs - nicknamed the Tory Taliban - tabled a series of Bills that would ban the burka and privatise the BBC as part of an 'alternative Queen's speech' from the Tory right.Suggest a correction