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'Strip absent fathers' of benefits

Unemployed absent fathers who refuse to take up work experience offers should be stripped of their benefits, a report has recommended.

Policy Exchange has called for a job placement programme, similar to the controversial scheme that last month sparked accusations that young people were being forced into "slave labour", to be created for welfare claimants who do not live with their children.

Under its plans, "feckless" parents would be fast-tracked on to the compulsory scheme and forced to stick with it until the end or lose state payments.

After a wave of protests last month ministers announced youngsters would no longer be sanctioned for quitting placements.

The influential centre-right think-tank believes a mandatory programme would make it more likely claimants would leave benefits and take paid work.

Its report, Father Figures, shows that absent fathers on benefits contribute £5 a week in child benefit payments, regardless of the number of children they have with different mothers.

The study estimates there are up to 65,800 men who have been out of work for six months or longer and claims the Child Support Agency (CSA) focuses on collecting payments from working parents.

The organisation also demands that fathers are named on birth certificates. Child maintenance payments must remain in place for each child regardless of whether the parent goes on to have more children with new partners, it adds.

The report calls for single parents claiming income support to be exempted from paying a fee to use the CSA under changes being introduced by the Government, warning it will deter the poorest from chasing payments.

Report author Peter Saunders said: "Most fathers want to do all they can to help and support their children, even when they find themselves unemployed. But a minority persistently evade their responsibilities. This is unfair on their children, their former partners, other fathers who are doing the right thing, and taxpayers, who have to pick up the tab."


From Belfast Telegraph