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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 21:44 GMT
Lone parent speaks out

Dave Gill
Dave Gill wants more tax credits to pay for childcare

For Dave Gill, finishing work at 2pm doesn't mean the end of his working day.

In fact, the busiest part of it is just beginning. A lone parent from Birmingham, he has to rush home to get things ready for his three children, aged 13, 9 and 7.

Like a lot of lone parent families, money is scarce in the Gill household.

I don't want to sit at home and have the state pay for me.
Dave Gill

One of the planks of the family's finances is child tax credits, whereby parents get either lower tax bills or a cash sum from the Treasury.

"It's one of the better things that have been introduced to encourage people to go back to work", says Dave.

But despite the extra money coming in, Dave is hoping that the Treasury will make some changes to the benefit.

"It's at the stage where it needs tweaking to actually fit into what people would like to see. And yet there doesn't seem to be any feedback being asked for by the government," he told BBC News Online.

What is the poverty line and how many live beneath it?

Top of Dave's list for change is more money to cover child care costs during the school holidays.

Currently he gets paid for four weeks per year, even though the children are out of school for 12 weeks. So to continue working, he must pay for eight weeks of childcare himself.

Tax breaks

Of course, a bit more money overall would come in very handy. But does the government have a duty to support parents at that level?

Mark Wood
If I want to save for a mortgage, I can't save for a pension as well, so my property will become my pension
Mark Wood
First time buyer

Dave thinks it depends on individual circumstances.

"If my earnings are above a certain threshold I'm quite happy for the state to have nothing to do with my children.

"But as soon as you go down in earnings and your income drops drastically, I feel the government should take some interest in making sure your children don't go below the poverty line."

The tax credits are paid to those in work as well as parents who remain at home, but Dave believes that the small amount he gets is not always an incentive to work.

The salary from his previous job was used to calculate the yearly credits he receives.

Even though he was made redundant and now has a much smaller income, he won't receive more money until the new tax year begins in April.

"I've been advised that it might have been better for me to go onto income support and have everything paid for me. But I don't want to sit at home and have the state pay for me."

Apart from more money in his pocket, Dave also wants tax breaks for companies which employ lone parents, to cover the cost of extra days off when children are ill, and the sometimes flexible hours they are forced to work.

Do you think parents with children should get more help in the Budget? Or should the Chancellor give priority to other groups - or to cutting taxes?

The law states that it is unlawful to leave children unattended under the age of 13, therefore they must have childcare if a parent is to work full time. Therefore, this is not a perk. This should be treated as a legal necessity in order to work, and given tax benefits just as some car users are given breaks because they need their car for work. This measure is well overdue.
June Winton, Gillingham, Kent

I wonder if those that say parents are scroungers will be happy to benefit from the public services that my children will pay for when they are retired.
Stephen Clutton, Holmes Chapel

I find the whole "scrounging" stereotype astonishing. Do we object to our tax paying for others healthcare on the NHS quite so much? I am a married father of 2 living in Cornwall on an over average wage in Cornish terms, and I find the children's tax credit a godsend as the booming Cornish housing market and cost of living has risen astonishingly in recent years.
Stephen, Truro, UK

Child Benefit should be means tested
Simon Cager, Surbito
Child Benefit should be means tested. High income families should not receive these benefits. Middle income families seem to be suffering the most with the government encouraging parents to return to work and yet not providing affordable childcare facilities. In our case it was almost not financially viable for my partner to return to work.
Simon Cager, Surbiton

Why, oh why the emphasis on parents? The more pressing time bomb reflects the inability of couples who are both working to afford to buy appropriate housing. People having children should bear the consequences of their decision. Being able to live in your own house is a fundamental human right that many in the UK are not able to take up.
Simon Carr, Oxford, UK

Most people would rather work but have a small helping hand to do so
Laura, London, UK
It is shocking that people still think that others are 'sponging' their tax money. Most single parents I know are so not by their own doing (widow or one partner has left). They had the children in a stable relationship and therefore at that time were able to provide. Circumstances change and most people would rather work but have a small helping hand to do so. Do you really begrudge them that?
Laura, London, UK

At the very least, payments for childcare should be tax-free. Even in South Africa, a country not best known for its welfare state, this is the case. I pay 500 a month childcare after I have been taxed at the basic rate.
Samantha Jones, Cardiff, UK

As a single person with no children on a modest salary, why do most people with children think that it's their RIGHT to help themselves to my tax? People should only have children if they can afford to have them.
Paul Phillips, Birmingham

I hope that the Chancellor gives more support to children who need holiday and after school care. I also believe as a single parent that there should be extra money for Saturday clubs, like dance, swimming and gym lessons, as children are getting overweight. In my area all of the children live in flats.
Paulette Harley, Ladywood, Birmingham

Once again the scroungers want my tax to pay for their responsibilities. Other people's children, which they choose to have, are not the responsibility of me or the taxman. Why should I suffer lower and lower standards of public services while being taxed more and more for people who expect the state to pay for everything?
Alistair Hunter, Stourport, Worcestershire

I think it's disgraceful the government is not doing enough to assist parents. Both my husband and I work full-time and we have an eight year old, who has to go to the morning and afternoon school club and a two year old who goes to nursery full time. In total we are paying out over 500 a month and what do we get from the government? An insult! They contribute 90 a month and that's it. I think the government should pay at least 40% of the bill for working parents.
Anita Devi Kumar, Birmingham

I think we are doing too much to encourage, and even force, parents to work more and more. I think this is very misguided. Many children spend much too much time in "childcare". I think money should be available to enable a parent to spend more time at home so they can look after their own children.
Mr T. Knight, Gloucester

I think they should stand on their own two feet. I did and I was a lone parent living in a new area with no parental support.
Marion Merrick, Bristol

I came from a poor background with three brothers and a single mother to support us working in a factory on shifts. She didn't get the benefits that people get today and she had too much pride to sit at home and beg off the state and other people. This gave me a work ethic, something that has enabled me to move from poverty into a professional job. Give people motivation not money, give them back their pride and allow them to support their families - not me! Alan Lazenby, Hull England

I've never really understood why child benefit is not means tested. Let's say for example the benefit stops when household earning exceed 60k. This would give the treasury "a lot" of money to re-distribute into poorer households and realistically not impact high earners in the slightest.
Simon, London

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