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Benefit changes 'hit family bonds'

Published 21/06/2015

It is feared that fathers who live apart will increasingly be unable to have their child to stay overnight
It is feared that fathers who live apart will increasingly be unable to have their child to stay overnight

The bond between young fathers and their children could be weakened by housing benefit changes, charities have warned.

It is feared that fathers who live apart will increasingly be unable to have their child to stay overnight, according to Barnardo's, Working With Men and the Young Dads Council.

They point out that since 2012 single people under the age of 35 have mainly been restricted to claiming benefits for a single room in a shared house - and there has been no exemption for an estimated 10,000 non-resident parents.

It means that children are forced to share bathrooms with strangers if they want to stay overnight.

They also claim that new plans will see housing benefit entirely removed from many people under 21 - potentially affecting 118,000 young people.

Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said young single fathers face "a constant struggle" to keep contact with children.

He said: "So it's deeply concerning that the Government plans to scupper their ability to secure even a room to spend time alone with their child, with benefits changes.

"The first few years of life are crucial to cementing the bond between parents and children, and the Government should be doing its utmost to encourage contact between young dads and their children at this time."

The charities are calling on the Government to urgently review benefit rules to help parents of all ages. They should start by exempting all parents, regardless of whether their children live with them full time or not, from plans to cut housing benefits for young people, the charities argue.

Working With Men chief executive Shane Ryan suggested that "the vast majority of fathers contribute positively to their children's lives and with the right support could do even more; surely this is to be encouraged and supported in any way possible?"

He added: "By cutting housing benefits for those fathers that are most in need we potentially reduce the chances of these relationships ever being formed."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "There is no evidence to back up these claims.

"Our welfare reforms are all about ensuring that everyone has the dignity of a job and a regular wage packet, to provide for their families and be a positive role model for their children."

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