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Lone Parents Are Hit the Hardest - Yet Again

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It hasn't been admitted publicly - but it looks like the Tories' war on lone parents has resumed.

Lone parents won't forget the way in which they were demonised by previous Conservative governments - Peter Lilley's "little list", John Redwood's notorious visit to the St Mellons estate in Wales - and a host of policies that left lone parents struggling in poverty to bring up children on their own.

But in 2002, the Tories claimed to have seen the light. Mindful of the fact that one in four families is headed by a lone parent, most of whom had never set out to bring up their children alone, and most of whom would of course have a vote, the rhetoric began to change. David Willetts announced at the Conservative party conference that year that the Tory war on lone parents was over. The party now recognised the error of its ways.

But it has become increasingly apparent the conversion's wearing thin. At every opportunity, Tories continue to maintain that growing up in a married two-parent family is the ideal. Tax breaks for married couples remain on the cards. And the policy agenda is once again increasingly hostile to one-parent families.

Lone parents now have to pay to get the child support agency to chase up child maintenance from a former partner - money they ought to be entitled to for their children will be reduced by CSA fees.

On the work front, draft regulations introduced by the government late last year began to water down the extra flexibilities introduced by Labour to allow lone parent jobseekers to combine worksearch with caring for children, while lone parents are hit particularly hard by cuts to help with childcare costs as they don't have a partner with whom to share childcare. And just this week, we see that the proposals being debated in the Welfare Benefits Uprating bill to cap benefits increases at just 1%, well below inflation, will hit lone parents hardest of any group - analysis by the Women's Budget Group shows lone parent families will lose an average of £9.01 a week - more than any other family type.

So the Tories are back to their old ways, aided and abetted by their friends in government, the LibDems. One-parent families are once again the target of policies that will increase the risk of hardship and child poverty. Of course, with nine out of 10 lone parent households headed by a woman, it's of a piece with the government's track record generally - it is after all women who are bearing the brunt of this government's cuts.

Around the Web

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Changes to benefits for lone parents - DWP

Lone parents hit by childcare costs

Child benefit: who is entitled to what

Child benefit: what are the new rules?

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Child benefit cuts: don't lose out