§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) in which publication, speech or statement his Department has described how it takes account of the family perspective and the life cycle in the targets, activities and statistics of his Department;
(2) if he will make a statement on how his Department takes account of the family perspective and the family life cycle in the targets, activities and statistics of his Department.
§ Mr. Burt
A substantial proportion of the activities of the Department of Social Security is aimed at supporting 619W families, through the benefit system and through the proposed child support arrangements. Numerous speeches and statements have set out the Department's views on the family perspective and the needs of families featured prominently in the deliberations leading up to the 1988 social security reforms, as well as the 1990 White Paper "Children Come First".
The structure of the benefit system now provides two clear and distinct paths for the provision of help to families with the cost of bringing up children. The first is to provide help for families generally, while the second is to provide extra help for low-income families, both in and out of work.
Child benefit is designed to meet the needs of families generally and the Government remain committed to the principle of giving financial support to those who bear the extra responsibility of bringing up children.
The introduction of income support to replace supplementary benefit enabled us to tackle many of the deficiencies and complexities of the old system. Through the system of personal allowances and premiums reflecting the needs of particular client groups, such as the family premium for families with children, we are now able to direct help specifically towards low-income families not in work.
The cornerstone of our approach to help low-income working families is family credit. This now provides a tax-free weekly cash payment to boost the incomes of almost 450,000 working families, payable in nearly every case to the mother. Family credit is designed to:
- (i) provide extra support to these families in accordance with their needs and ensure as far as possible that they are better off in work;
- (ii) ensure that those who are able to work harder or for longer hours do not lose all or more of the extra money earned because of the withdrawal of income related benefits.
In our manifesto we promised:We will set up a new Family Credit telephone advice service to support working families".
The new family credit helpline will be set up from April 1993 to help potential, as well as existing customers.
Families both in and out of work qualify for housing benefit and for community charge benefit, to be replaced next month by the council tax benefit. Both benefits, like income support, feature a family premium and a structure of allowances to take account of family needs.
There is a need for social policy to reinforce and encourage parents' acceptance of their responsibility for providing for their children. Our new Child Support Agency, to be launched on 5 April, will take over the task of assessing, collecting and enforcing payments of child maintenance. By setting up a purpose-built agency charged with all aspects of maintenance, rather than the current fragmented system, we expect to see big gains in the extent to which absent parents contribute towards the support of their children. The new system should also bring greater predictability and regularity in the payment of maintenance—so that maintenance will contribute to creating a stable basis of income on which parents caring for children can build.
The Department also commissions research to analyse the situation of single people and families receiving benefit of various stages of life. All benefit statistics give a breakdown of the numbers and characteristics of the people receiving them. The departmental report— 620W Cm 2213, February 1993—provides an analysis of social security expenditure and includes a bibliography; a copy is in the Library.