Separated parents on low incomes who rely on government benefits to survive need more help, the Social Security Advisory Committee has claimed.

In a new report, the Committee notes that in separated families, only one parent can receive child benefits because legislation assumes that there will be a single carer for the children. The other parent is only entitled to the benefits available to single adults, even if they are actively involved in looking after their children for periods of time and they spend money doing so. Housing benefits are also very restrictive, the report continues, and this can make hosting overnight stays a major challenge for such parents.

Paying child maintenance can push low income parents into real poverty, the Committee claims. Parents who are not the primary carers of their children are nine per cent more likely to be in poverty than working age adults as a whole.

The report calls on the government to formulate a clear policy for helping struggling parents without primary care who are dependent on benefits, along with their children. More research would help policy makers understand the true nature and scale of the problem.

The Social Security Advisory Committee provides policy advice to the Department for Work and Pensions.

You can read the full report here.

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