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Lone Parents

Volume 172: debated on Thursday 17 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what changes he is planning for the collection of maintenance for lone parents; and if he will make a statement.

The Government are very concerned about the number of lone-parent families who receive little or no maintenance. We believe that absent parents should do more to meet their responsibilities. We are currently reviewing the maintenance system to see what changes need to be made and we aim to bring forward proposals later this year.We have already taken action to improve the current system. We have strengthened the basis on which local social security offices assess absent parents' ability to pay maintenance and have improved our instructions on interviewing lone parents about the identity of the absent father. We have also introduced a new clause to the present Social Security Bill to expand our ability to take action and address some of the problems lone parents have experienced. In addition, my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has just announced that the Inland Revenue will help the Department in tracing absent parents.As a result of the action taken we aim to increase maintenance recovered from absent parents of lone-parent families on benefit from £180 million last year to £260 million in 1990–91.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish figures showing the number of lone parents receiving supplementary benefit/income support by length of time on benefit, distinguishing between those who have been receiving it for less than one year, one to two years, two to three years, four to five years, over five years and over 10 years.

I regret that not all the information requested is available. The information we do have on duration of claims by lone-parent families to supplementary benefit/income support is contained in table 20.21 of the 1988 edition of the income support annual statistical inquiry and a copy of this is in the Library.