Welfare Shake-Up For Lone Parents

Lone parents could face cuts to their benefits, under government plans. Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton is expected to announce proposals to encourage lone parents into jobs instead of relying on benefit.

Currently, single parents receive benefit until their youngest child is 16 years old. It is thought ministers want to cut that age limit to 11.

They argue that high quality childcare now exists enabling parents to get jobs more easily.

Mr Hutton is expected to say: “The UK has one of the highest proportions of families headed by a lone parent in Europe.”

He will claim that since 1997 the proportion of lone parents in work has risen by 11 percentage points to 56.5%.

But he will add: “Despite the progress we have made in increasing the lone parent employment rate… we still have the lowest lone parent employment rate of any major European country.”

BBC Newsnight’s political editor Martha Kearney says any measure affecting lone parents is likely to prove controversial among Labour MPs.

One of the biggest revolts early on in Labour’s rule came in 1997 when 47 MPs voted against cuts in lone parent benefit, our correspondent said.