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Thursday, 21 May, 1998, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Lone parents reform hailed a success
The government's New Deal to get jobless lone parents into work is a success, says a new report, but the Conservatives have described the research as "inconclusive."

Under New Deal, personal advisors are assigned to lone parents as advisors on jobs, training, childcare and in-work benefits.

Since the scheme was launched nine months ago, 5m has been spent and researchers have been trying to find out if the taxpayer is getting value for money.

Eight areas targeted in a study by the independent Social and Community Planning Research showed a slowing down in the number of lone parents claiming income support.

Harriet Harman
Harman: "scheme is having real impact"
New and repeat claims from lone parents have risen by almost 7% less than areas where the scheme has not been running, the report says.

Across the country the number of lone parents with school-age children claiming income support has fallen by 2% since the New Deal was introduced.

Social Security Secretary Harriet Harman claimed the scheme was having "a real and measurable impact."

"With more lone parents working, there will be more families better off, and fewer children being brought up in workless households," Ms Harman said. "I look forward to seeing the effects of the national implementation."

However, the Shadow Social Services Spokesman Iain Duncan-Smith says the research is inconclusive.

The only reliable figures he says are that only 6% of parents invited to take part in the New Deal had got jobs.

Most lone parents receive state benefits. Just over 1.1m lone parents - around 80% - receive income support, which is paid to those on low incomes.

There are currently more than 2m children being brought up in lone parent families on income support.

In addition, all lone parents are entitled to receive a higher level of child benefit (previously known as one parent benefit).

A total of 10bn was spent by the state on lone parent benefits in 1996/97, a figure which the New Deal is intended to reduce.

However, the New Deal policy triggered a major revolt by Labour MPs last year, and was vigorously criticised by some single mothers, who would prefer to stay at home to raise their children.

BBC News
BBC social affairs correspondent Kim Catcheside: Conservatives are sceptical
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