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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Children make you sick: Official

I realise that this is a dangerously contentious subject to comment upon, but rather than clambering upon a Daily Mail high horse, I’m simply a bit confused.

Here’s the thing.

‘The Office for National Statistics estimates there are 1.69m lone parents with dependent children in the UK . Britain has one of the lowest levels of lone parent employment in Europe, with almost half on benefits. He said up to a third of lone parents move on to incapacity benefit once their child benefit ends as their youngest reaches 16.’

So: there are 1.69 million single parents in this country, around half of whom are on benefits. Well, to be fair, if you are a single parent of young children it is not entirely surprising that you would require welfare assistance (although respect is due to the single parents who work and don’t claim). What I don’t understand is what happens to these same parents once they are no longer needed at home to care for their children:

‘Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton says he does not want lone parents moving "seamlessly" on to incapacity benefit once their child benefits stop. He said he has evidence that up to a third of lone parents move on to incapacity benefit once their child benefit ends, as their youngest reaches 16. Mr Hutton has already unveiled plans to to get one million incapacity benefit claimants back into work over the next 10 years, saving £7bn a year.’

What, pray, is this ‘incapacity benefit’?

A cursory glance at the trusty tinterweb tells me that:

‘If you are suffering from short or long-term illness, you may be eligible to receive the Incapacity Benefit. The benefit is not means tested and in most cases depends on your record of National Insurance Contributions. You must be unable to work because of disability or ill health, cannot claim statutory sick pay, and have been paid or credited with a minimum amount of National Insurance Contributions in one of the last two tax years.’

Right. Incapacity Benefit is something you receive if, as the label suggests, you are incapable of working through ill health.

So that’s half of all single parents who claim benefits. Around 845,000 people, say.
And a third of those then become too sick to work?

Over 281,000 people rendered ‘too sick to work’ after at least 16 unemployed years of being a parent?

If that’s what having children does to you, I’m even less interested than I thought I was.

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