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Tony Blair should be served with an ASBO for browbeating single parents into returning to work, reckons Ros Dodd

The Government wants to rid the streets of teenage thugs, yet this week threatened to cut Income Support to single parents who don't try to get a job.

Currently they get Income Support until their kids are 16, but Work Secretary John Hutton said it wasn't ‘unreasonable' to cut the age to 12.

Now what kind of logic is that? Single parents have a tough enough time as it is trying to be mum and dad to their children without feeling pressured to find a job as well. And if they do return to work, where does that leave the kids? Roaming the streets or being looked after by a childminder.

If you're a single parent who's not worked for a while, the chances of you falling into a job that pays a generous salary are minimal; more likely it'll be low-paid, part-time work - just about enough to pay for childcare, in fact.

So the Government, in its wisdom, is effectively saying that single parents would do best by toiling away in some mind-numbing job simply to earn enough money to pay for a stranger to raise their kids.

No wonder this country seems to have lost the plot. Our purported ‘family values' are a sham if we think it's better to dump children at nurseries than to care for them ourselves. I'm sure I'm not alone in reasoning that if children are deprived of parental closeness and discipline, they are more likely to go off the rails.

Rather than threatening to strip single parents of their benefits, this barmy Government ought to be rewarding them for their sense of responsibility and their presence of mind in realising the cost-effectiveness and pastoral benefits of bringing up their children.

Instead of pouring more money into ‘improving' child care and finding new ways to lure people back to work, the Government should put the cash towards easing the financial penury that is the lot of many single parents who choose not to work for all the right reasons.

'If we are to eradicate child poverty, then I believe we will also need to go further in challenging existing assumptions about who - and at what point - someone should be in work,' Hutton told BBC Radio 4.

But child poverty is about far more than not having enough money to buy the latest must-have trainers; it's about kids being handed over to pimply teenagers every day and missing out on the love, support and instinctive good sense that only parents can provide.

Is Ros right? Or do you back the government's proposals for single parent. Leave a comment on the messageboard.

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