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One-Parent Benefit

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage of those entitled to receive one-parent benefit are receiving it.

Our latest estimate is that one-parent benefit is being paid to about 70 per cent. of those who stand to gain by claiming the benefit.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, while the figure represents an improvement over the position last year, it is still rather disappointing? Does he propose to take any further steps to try to raise the figure?

I would not wholly agree that the figure is as disappointing as my hon. Friend implies. It represents an increase from only about 60 per cent. when the Government took office. That is a substantial achievement. We are considering further steps to try to increase take-up still further.

I welcome the improvement. Has the Department received any information from the 1981 census that helps to establish that there are more single parents and therefore a genuine need for a continuing review of the uptake?

It is interesting that preliminary findings for 1981 from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys show that the number of one-parent families may be slightly lower than that on which we based our take-up estimate. In that case the take-up estimate would rise, but I cannot be absolutely certain at the moment.

Given the relatively low level of benefit available to single parents, will the hon. Gentleman make representations to his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for tax concessions to be made available to single parents who have to hire child minders?

This matter has been discussed in the House on a number of occasions. I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor will register the fact that the point has been raised again.

The Minister says that he is not disappointed because take-up has increased by 10 per cent. Does he realise that £25 million remains unclaimed by people among whom there are a higher proportion of those on the poverty line? Is he not convinced that further efforts to increase the take-up are desirable?

I have explained that we are considering a further effort. I should like to see the £25 million taken up. However, I do not wish the House to under-estimate the achievement in getting the figure up from 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. This is recognised, I am happy to say, by the National Council for One Parent Families.