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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 July 2008

The socialist comment

Government attacks single parents

The government's new welfare legislation is demanding that, by the year 2010, single parents who are claiming benefits will have to return to the workplace once their youngest child reaches seven years of age. Initial changes are due to take place in October of this year, when lone parents with a child of 12 years will be expected to work. By 2009 the changes will be implemented when the child is ten.

Jane Harris, Winchester Socialist Party

This massive change in welfare benefits will be strongly felt by the organisations that are expected to support lone parents. But the legislation will hit single parents who receive income support hard. Many will have to go on job seekers allowance (JSA).

But JSA can create a whole set of problems. The government promises that childcare facilities will be in place to take into account the expected growth in employed people who have young children. In many areas, affordable and good childcare is still lacking.

The childcare costs survey, conducted by Daycare Trust, the National Childcare Campaign, found that more than two-thirds (70 per cent) of Children's Information Services in England said that parents had reported a lack of affordable childcare in the last 12 months.

JSA is only paid if the recipient is actively looking for work. This can inhibit people from taking up courses in local colleges, which may take place during the day as this renders them unable to work. However, the government would have us believe that job seekers will be actively encouraged to hone their skills and learn new ones, but preferably in the evenings so as not to disrupt their working day.

And if childcare is available for these parents who have to return to work, the legislation does not take into account that most childcare at 'after school clubs' only provides for children up to age eleven. Many parents rightly feel that their 12 year-old is too young to be left on their own for long periods of time, particularly over the school holiday period.

No choice

Not all childcare facilities are suitable for every child and a parent may feel uneasy leaving their child at centres etc. Annual leave for parents is also fraught with problems as most people are only entitled to four or five weeks' annual leave a year and the average school holidays stretch to thirteen weeks, leaving parents of young children with no option but to stick them into the childcare centres for nine weeks of the year, sometimes on a full-time basis.

If a single parent is forced back into the workplace, it is likely that they will need to work 16 hours minimum to be entitled to working tax credit, but they may find that in order to be financially better off they will have to work longer hours and leave their child for longer periods.

New Labour, along with the Tories, is intent on forcing single parents into minimum wage work without providing decent childcare, enacting legislation that brutally punishes Britain's most vulnerable people.

Socialists must demand a guaranteed minimum weekly income for all families and the right to work without compulsion. Childcare should be of high quality and free for all. We need to organise and fight back against a government that wants to push back living standards for working-class families to pay for the failures of capitalism.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 16 July 2008:

Global finance crisis deepens

Feature: Price inflation - the sickness of capitalism

Global Warming

Change the system! not the climate

International socialist news and analysis

Sri Lanka general strike

Military threat to Iran stepped up

Socialist Party NHS campaign

NHS - birthday greetings and warnings

Ambulances - calls doubled, no extra staff

Polyclinic courts Branson

Ex-Foley-ated! Union bashing NHS boss resigns as staff defeat pay cuts

Socialist Party campaigns

Glasgow East by-election Socialist change needed

Durham Miners' Gala rejects New Labour

One Wales rule for the rich...

Post Office Leeds: Haranguing in the rain

Greenwich: Employers' hypocrisy

Bangor: Bus protest

Workplace news and analysis

Visteon takeover: Workers' determination defends conditions

Shop stewards conference: Workers and war

Workplace news: In brief


Notts campaign against the racist BNP grows

Anti-racism stall in Wrexham

No to the BNP's attempt to divide Stoke's communities!

'Dear Boris' - we will NOT be silenced!

The Socialist Comment

Government attacks single parents

Socialist Party review

Live Working or Die Fighting: How the working class went global


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